CHICAGO - United Airlines and its pilots union have reached a tentative agreement on a contract that would give the carrier a promise of labor peace as it readies for the busiest travel season since the start of the pandemic.
The Air Line Pilots Association International said Friday terms will be reviewed by an internal council handling matters with United. If accepted there, the contract will be sent to members for ratification. Pending those decisions, terms were not disclosed.
Capt. Michael Hamilton, chair of the union’s master executive council that will review the contract, called it "an industry-leading agreement that recognizes our contributions to the current and future success of United Airlines."
The former contract opened for renegotiation in January 2019. No new deal was reached that year and when the pandemic disrupted travel in 2020, management and labor had little incentive to sign a new contract.
Chicago-based United had an advantage over its competition during the pandemic because it signed an agreement in 2020 with the pilots to minimize furloughs and offer early retirements when most flights were canceled. It made it easier to bring back pilots as business returned.
Scott Kirby, CEO of United, said in a LinkedIn post that the company and union "share a goal of making United the biggest and best airline in the history of aviation — and that shared purpose is why we are uniquely able to get deals done."
Reacting to a surge of bookings, United last month created or resumed 30 transatlantic flights in what it said was the largest such expansion in its history. After operating at substantial losses during the pandemic, United said in April that it expects to return to profitability during the current fiscal quarter.
At American, Southwest and Alaska airlines, tensions with pilots are increasing. Pilots say they are overworked, and they are demanding sizable pay increases.
Alaska Airlines pilots began a strike-authorization vote this week. However, federal law includes barriers to legal strikes in the airline industry — they can be blocked by federal mediators or the president.
The union represents 13,700 pilots at United. Its overall membership covers 62,000 pilots at 38 airlines.