Following Delta Deal Hiking Pay by 34%, Air Canada's Pilots Call Pay Gap "Embarrassing;" Demand New Deal

Air Canada's pilots are taking a page from the contract negotiation playbook of their counterparts in the U.S., demanding higher wages and describing their current compensation as "an embarrassing gap" compared to pilots south of the border, reports Reuters.

As Open Jaw reported 02MAR, Delta’s pilots approved a new contract that gives them a pay hike of over one-third by 2026. In addition, the new contract includes “improvements to scheduling, retirement and other benefits.”

A report in the New York Times says Delta's pilots' rich deal reflects the air industry’s historic shortage of pilots alongside spiking recovery of demand for air travel - and Air Canada's pilots want to see those same conditions north of the border boosting their own contracts.

In the run-up to new contract talks this year or next with the airline, the 4500-member strong Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) says Delta's latest hourly rates are "up to 45% higher than current Air Canada hourly pay rates."

ACPA union exec Charlene Hudy said in a statement, "Pilots in the U.S. have recently secured significant wage increases and other contractual improvements, creating an embarrassing gap with Canada."

The union says Air Canada pilots have received a 2% wage increase per year, since 2014. Its members have been "galvanized" by the outcome of recent Delta negotiations.

Reuters also reports that the ACPA may join the world's largest pilot union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents more than 60,000 pilots worldwide. ALPA's Canadian leader Tim Perry highlighted how differently in the post-pandemic aviation landscape pilots are being treated in the U.S. than Canada.

Despite the higher labour costs of richer pilot contracts, Perry says American airlines' "improved wages and working conditions for their pilots, in most cases far surpassing those of their Canadian counterparts" demonstrate their recognition of how important aircrew is to their businesses. For example, Delta's new deal with its pilots has resulted in a predicted reduction in its earnings in the first quarter.

Those airline concerns aren't likely to make pilot demands fade away, especially with the Delta precedent pressuring other airlines to match.

Not only are pilots at American Airlines and United currently negotiating new contracts, other Canadian airlines' pilots have been applying pressure, too.

Sunwing's pilot union Unifor successfully negotiated a 23 per cent pay hike earlier this year, reports Reuters, with a 2.5 per cent boost again in JAN, 2024.

That deal came after, as Open Jaw reported 08DEC, Ottawa refused to allow Sunwing to employ foreign pilots for the winter season. Deemed necessary by the airline to meet staffing demands for the winter travel season, the plan was criticized by its pilots' union. Unifor said the issue was not a lack of qualified pilots in Canada, but the airline’s unwillingness to address employees’ concerns. Sunwing subsequently cancelled large parts of its winter sun vacation program across Canada.

WestJet, which is awaiting regulatory approval of its bid to acquire Sunwing, has its own pilot demands to manage. As Open Jaw reported 13FEB, the union representing WestJet pilots has called for Ottawa to mediate after what it calls "months" of unproductive contract negotiations with the airline.

ALPA Canada, who represents approximately 1,800 pilots at WestJet and its subsidiary Swoop, says it has been negotiating with the airline since SEP. According to Bernie Lewall, chair of the union’s WestJet Pilots Association, the union is concerned about equal pay for pilots flying not just the main airline WestJet, but also for budget Swoop as well as concerns over how pay structure will work with WestJet's proposed acquisition of Sunwing.

Lynn Elmhirst


With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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