Delta pilots tip their hats

Pilots are usually fairly easy to identify at airports due to the distinctive features of their uniforms. Their uniforms generally feature three or four stripes (two stripes are sometimes seen outside the United States), as well as the easily recognizable pilot’s hat.

Well, as noted by @xJonNYC, if you see Delta pilots at airports in the coming days and weeks, you might notice that some aren’t wearing hats. This is no coincidence.

Delta pilots express their frustration by doffing their hats

Pilots are one of Delta’s few unionized working groups and are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). Pilots have been wanting a new contract for quite some time, but haven’t made much progress. Animosity between pilots and management continues to grow as pilots feel the executives are careless.

On Thursday, hundreds of off-duty Delta pilots demonstrated at airports across the country to get a new contract.

Delta pilots picketed nationwide on Thursday

Pilots have a subtle new way of expressing their frustration with management, and it comes in the form of a “hats off to a new contract” campaign. It seems the union is encouraging pilots to stop wearing their caps as a small sign that they want a new contract.

Just because the union recommends it doesn’t mean all pilots agree. In this regard, you might be able to see where pilots are standing based on whether or not they are wearing their hats as they walk around airports.

But ultimately, that seems like a polite way of expressing displeasure, and I’m a fan of it.

In the past, we’ve seen pilots take very different approaches to expressing frustration with management at some airlines. For example, in the late 2000s many United pilots were upset, and some braked while taxiing to increase fuel economy. So yeah, not wearing a hat pales in comparison.

Don’t expect Delta pilots to wear their hats

Why do Delta pilots want a new contract?

It goes without saying that it’s been a rough couple of years for the airline industry, although it’s on the up at this point. There continues to be a major shortage of pilots, giving pilots quite a bit of bargaining power.

We’ve seen several regional airlines raise wages massively. Admittedly, prior to these changes, regional pilots weren’t paid much as the goal is always to work at one of the ‘big’ airlines where the pay has always been quite good.

Currently, virtually all major airlines are negotiating contracts with pilots as pilots demand higher salaries. United pilots have a tentative new deal that gives them pay increases of up to 14%, and the pilots will vote on it in mid-July. Meanwhile, rumor has it that American pilots will vote on a deal that could see them earn pay rises of up to 17%.

For example, under American’s proposed new contract, senior Boeing 737 captains would earn a base salary of $340,000 per year, while senior Boeing 777 captains would earn a base salary of $425,000 per year.

Pilots in Alaska, Delta, and Southwest are also competing for new contracts, but aren’t quite as far along as American or United. I’m curious how this will play out. Depending on your economic prospects, I certainly can’t blame the pilots for wanting to commit to something ASAP because I think there are some darker days ahead and the pilots will have a lot less impact then.

Delta pilots want a new contract

bottom line

Delta pilots are fighting for a new contract. In addition to pickets across the country, you can also expect that many pilots won’t be wearing their hats at airports. This is something completely subtle that most people probably wouldn’t notice or think about. But as someone who finds such things interesting, I would certainly be curious to watch.

If you’re flying Delta in the coming days, please report whether or not you see any Delta pilots wearing hats!