Pilots have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks they are overworked and tired. Is this a clever union negotiation tactic or are pilots truly exhausted? And if they are exhausted, do we really want them flying our children?
Delta Air Lines pilots are protesting around the country in hopes of securing a new contract. Pilots are in short supply around the world and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) is taking advantage of the opportunity to negotiate the best contract possible.
In a childish tactic that mimics what United pilots used to do, Delta pilots won’t be wearing their hats for the next several weeks.
That will show them…
But it goes beyond that.
In the days ahead, pilots at American Airlines and United Airlines will vote on double-digit pay raises. It is understandable that Delta pilots don’t want to be left behind. Senior captains on widebody jets stand to earn over $400,000 per year and with the future uncertain, pilots may not be in nearly as strong of a bargaining position next year.
But these pilots are crossing a rubicon when it comes to contract negotiations. Specifically, Delta pilots have alleged that they are tired..even exhausted (see image above). Whether deliberate or not (and I believe it is very deliberate), the implication is that pilots are currently being overworked and that puts safety at risk.
Take for example the recent incident of UA2627. A United Boeing 737 Max 9 (N37513) traveling from Chicago (ORD) to Pittsburgh (PIT) with 168 passengers and six crew members onboard, was cleared for a visual approach and landing on runway 28C. Instead, the aircraft lined up with runway 28L and landed there. There were no near-misses, but that seems to me a pretty glaring oversight. Is this evidence that pilots are simply exhausted?
Perhaps pilots can explain to me why they are exhausted if the rule prohibiting them from flying more than 100 hours per month (14 CFR § 121.481) has not changed. I realize pilots are fed up with last-minute changes to their duty assignments (and rightfully so). But if minimum rest periods remain on the books and they cannot fly more than 100 hours per month, why are we suddenly hearing about fatigue during contract negotiation time?
Are we truly at risk because airlines are asking too much of their pilots? Do we jeopardize our safety by stepping onto an airline these days?
The last six years in the United States have shown us that fear is a powerful tool to control public opinion. I know many pilots and consider many friends. They are decent people and of course they want a fair shake during a time of record airline demand and rising ticket prices.
Reducing all of this to pilot greed when they should just be happy for the pay they are making instead of exploiting this moment after raping U.S. taxpayers during the pandemic is probably not fair. But using fatigue to imply the skies are not safe is a dangerous game. Strangely, I hope that this alleged exhaustion is real, because if this is merely a bargaining tactic it is incredibly shameful.
images: @Delta_Pilots / Twitter
Matthew is an avid traveler who calls Los Angeles home. Each year he travels more than 200,000 miles by air and has visited more than 135 countries. Working both in the aviation industry and as a travel consultant, Matthew has been featured in major media outlets around the world and uses his Live and Let’s Fly blog to share the latest news in the airline industry, commentary on frequent flyer programs, and detailed reports of his worldwide travel.
Whoa. Spot on Matthew.
Was watching the news today and thinking exactly the same. They are touting exhaustion but we are supposed to assume the system is safe? Yet if you put it into the bigger picture of contract negotiations it all makes sense. For sure creating fear to get public sentiment behind them.
Leads me back to a comment on Kyle’s post last week by a supposed AA employee who touted, ‘Don’t fly AA, it’s unsafe.” These are pretty serious charges. But, I guess, in the end, like everything else, “follow the money.”
What happened six years ago? What am I missing?
I agree. I don’t like this tactic by the pilots. I am for them getting paid what they’re worth though. As a Delta Platinum, I want my pilots very, VERY happy and content so I can take advantage of this hard earned (bought) status!
Come on. It’s not a big deal.
Kids getting shot to pieces at school or falling out of the sky, who is to say one is better than the other.
In any case after the kabuki theater of covid we can safely say the country should tolerate losing a few hundred Americans every year to terrorists or accidents. In return we can save a lot of money that we spend on security and supervision theater. Surprised ugly faced republicans aren’t rooting for it yet.
Democrats are child abusers
Even though every time a politician gets accused or arrested for sex crimes it’s a republican? The right keeps hurling these baseless charges to deflect from the fact they are doing it. It’s an age old defense tactic…..
I hate to break it to you but everyone in our entire aviation system is exhausted right now. I’m an air traffic controller at the worlds busiest ATC facility working 6 day work weeks for well over a year now. Eight hour shifts turn into ten hour shifts many days. We are working record traffic levels at my facility with no end in sight. No one was prepared for how quickly people got the urge to travel again. I don’t understand why. People no longer want to live to work but actually only want to work to live now. They want to take vacations again and live and enjoy life because after covid they are finally realizing that tomorrow isn’t promised. The airlines need to accept their mistakes and schedule what they are only capable of actually staffing. They asked too many pilots to retire early. They paid regional pilots crap pay for far too long which made many people decide not to enter the career field due to the extremely high costs of becoming a pilot. As for ATC the feds failure to higher and train people for the past few years all while many controllers were voluntarily retiring or being forced out by the age 56 rule is what caused our issues.
Are you in Jacksonville? Pete says all is fine with ATC.
One thing you stated is actually the root of the entire issue. Regional pilots are paid too little. In contrast, mainline pilots are paid too much. But Unions are controlling this as a way to stave off regional jets and a cheapening of pilot pay. The reality is that there needs to be balance. Regional pilots need to make more from the start and mainline pilots need to shut up and realize they have a pretty darn good life at their pay for the hours they give. As in everything, the answer is in the middle, but greed will always consume the ending.
It’s horrible how they treat regionals from a pay perspective.
And I had no idea that ATC limits were at 56. Wow. Really? That’s incredibly shortsighted if true. I mean, I would be happy to have a 63 year old ATC person controlling airspace for my flight. That’s a lot of experience and instinct thrown out the door.
Mmmmmm… let’s see if the pilot is actually truly exhausted there are provisions I’m each of the airlines contracts to address it. IE can’t be made to fly… these pilots claiming exhaustion are probably the same ones picking up premium pay open time trips of course its for bargaining…
But even for you the for the children bs is a new low. Your poor little Minnie me won’t ever be able to watch cartoons if you won’t let him fly since he lives with autocratic parents at home.. what about on the highways how many drivers r tired etc now your not gonna drive with your kids in the car. Can’t wait till your resent the hell out of you I know first hand what happens whe. You grow up with controlling narsastic parents, later in life.
It’s summertime and people want to travel. I suppose the Covid shutdown has brought on a surge in travel. If it’s the PAY they are striking for, then we are going to have to pay sky-high airfares. If it’s a population BOOM in people wanting to travel, then there is not much we can do about that except training more people to become pilots. Hey, I know how they feel. I’m a Nurse and I can work 8 days a week without stopping.
Have you never learned how to write a sentence?
Your daddy needs to learn how to write a sentence.
this is pathetic…when i was in medical training, as an intern or resident…i was capped at working 80 hours/week. These guys fly 100hrs/month, make 300-400k, and they are “exhausted”…pathetic.
they are away from home for hundreds of hours more
As are many of us, let me get my little violin out.
the life isn’t as easy as people make it out to be
Really? I probably work double the hours they do and travel globally in the process non stop every year, and I am in my 50’s. It’s a fine life, and there’s is much easier in many respects with dedicated security, fast track immigration and waiting shuttles. It’s a fine life if you stop letting Unions tell you it’s not and thus encouraging a milking of more, especially right after they stole from the American taxpayer.
idk how you work and travel that much. sounds like a lot. your immune system must be very strong. I know a few FA’s and follow some pilots on YouTube and Instagram. yes, it is not a bad life but there are some downsides, especially when trips fall apart. as far as the bailout money, we currently have a blank check for Ukraine so I’m not surprised others like the airlines got some too
Ukraine is genocide and the murdering of children and innocent people for the gain of territory and an extermination of a culture. How you compare that to a pilot’s life who can be making on mainline carriers as a Captain in the $300K range (with incredible benefits) is beyond me.
“Yes, it is not a bad life but there are some downsides, especially when trips fall apart.”
I see, as if for the rest of us it doesn’t fall apart? Everyone is dealing, we are not running to demand more pay as a result.
I agree that Ukraine is a problem -but even the mainstream media has admitted there is almost zero accountability for where this money is going. Sounds like money laundering to me. We should stop this blank check to Ukraine and help people domestically right now, especially seeing that we don’t know where this money is really going. This blank check seems similar to the Haiti situation where there were tons of fraud with that money, too. Also, I haven’t mentioned anything about captains making 300k. I haven’t heard one word about what the unions are saying, either. I agreed with you above about regional pay being way too low. I don’t know how people survive. First five years as a mainline FA is pretty dismal, too. So there’s some issues there. Overall, I think the FAA should look at crew rest and increase it for all workgroups.
I’ll agree with you on the Regional pilot issue. It’s a completely bonked system that reminds me more of sports teams than it does of business. Especially a business that relies on the lives of passengers in an equal manner. It’s as if they treat the regional pilots like a minor league baseball player who makes little but has to show talent to advance to the “big leagues.” The problem with that is that they are entrusted with the same responsibilities and the same lives as mainline. It’s all interconnected. This is the flaw with seniority at airlines. It is nothing more than “starve for some years and after time you can make some money and call it a day even if you are not all that talented or worth it.” So, in reality, they take the idea of sports teams, but throw out the merit aspect of talent rising to the top.
That is a very appropriate analogy. It’s a very interesting system where someone can make $20k a year but then $100k with seniority. And the range is huge comparing first year to topped out. Most salary ranges aren’t so wide open. And as far as starving, the regional new hire FA’s make pennies. Have heard many are on food stamps. Not right. I think Pete should work on these things. I hear that attrition for junior staff is high right now, at least in the FA population. Perhaps Matthew can dive into these things.
As someone else has mentioned, if you want to talk about “exhaustion” you should look into the current air traffic control system. People are up in arms at the thought of a pilot being tired, but don’t give any thought to all the overworked people that work in our ATC system. Jacksonville Center staffing finally made the news recently because it screwed up so many flights, but the same staffing/overworked issue is happening at Centers around the entire country.
What’s the solution? Mass hiring? ATCs are paid very well. What is holding people back?
The starting salary is 30k-40k. Not everyone can survive on that. Similar to pilots and FA’s, you have to be willing to work anywhere in the country. Also have to be under thirty years of age, so they are losing out on those who developed an interest later in life.
Was this piece paid for and sponsored by Delta? Do they fly you into ATL for previews or give you exclusive scoops on stories?
This is so uneducated and biased, it might as well have Delta Corporate Communications on the byline.
No, it is not. Maybe you actually post something substantive instead of a worthless gripe? Can you please address the concerns I raised? Thank you in advance.
ROFL. Your entire “article” here is a worthless gripe. You do literally nothing to understand the issues from the pilots side, make underhanded sweeps at unions, question the credibility of pilots when they say they’re tired, make allusions that they’re only complaining about this now without pointing out how long they’ve been working on an expired contract, etc.
It’s so obviously biased and one-sided that it could have been written by Delta Corporate Communications.
That’s entirely your right (yah, free speech!) but no reader of this diatribe should mistake it as a balanced and reasoned piece. It’s simply an anti-union puff piece by a self-important travel blogger.
And no, I’m not a delta pilot or even in a union. Just calling out BS when I see it.
Pilots want a new contract and to make a lot more money. Pilots are claiming they are exhausted and overworked. However, pilots have duty restrictions and 100 hour limits per month. Pilots got bailed out by the American taxpayer to get salaries while they sat at home. Pilots are now complaining as people want to fly again.
What exactly is being missed here? I think Matthew nailed it. If pilots already have duty restrictions and monthly limits how are they exhausted and overworked? And if true (which clearly it’s not) it would imply that the public is in danger stepping on an airline right now.
I don’t think this is anti-union. I think it’s calling out pilot’s unions specifically for using a nasty excuse about being overworked so as to attempt to get public support behind a ridiculous raise. Especially when their regional pilot brothers and sisters are practically living on food stamps.
You offer nothing in fact to counter that.
Sorry Matthew, but while I agree with much of your commentary in your area of specialisation, when it comes to fatigue in the cockpit, you’re simply dead wrong… as are many of those above who sympathise with the thrust of your arguments in this article.
Firstly, I’m a retired airline pilot… I flew widebody aircraft on international routes for decades, trained and checked pilots, and managed operations.
Any long haul flying results in cumulative (and irretrievable) sleep deprivation, with dire consequences on routine cockpit performance and your quality of life (and that of your family) in general. There are many books and scientific studies you can find anywhere (including an excellent book on the subject by Dr. Matthew Walker), which confirm this. NASA conducted a study which concluded that a pilot landing an aircraft after a 14-hour flight (that would be after a total 18-hour duty day) was doing so at a performance level equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.08g%, which would put a car driver at a proven state of considerable risk of an accident.
After an overnight flight from Asia to the West Coast, I have fallen asleep at the wheel while driving home from the airport on more than one occasion, and have frequently had to pull off the road for a nap before being able to safely continue the relatively short 45-minute drive to my home.
You never regain lost sleep, and the cumulative effect of losing sleep particularly while having to rest outside your body’s home timezone, flying all night, doing checkrides in simulators at 2:00am (because that’s when they can be scheduled), can and does shorten your life and put you at heightened risk of poor health outcomes according to all studies on this subject.
Bottom line…? You can’t pay these folks enough when it comes to dealing with that explosive engine failure on takeoff, the landing in a blizzard in Chicago, or the clear air turbulence encounter over the Atlantic at midnight…
So quit whining about paying them what they’re worth. You’re going to outlive them statistically, and meanwhile, they’re delivering you and your children safely so that you can continue to talk in these pages about your experiences… not take cheap shots about the methods they have to use to get your attention.
We see this issue differently, but I greatly appreciate you taking the time to voice your thoughts here and offer a different point of view.
So I’m curious, given what you are saying, do you think we are risking the lives of our children putting them on an airplane right now? Is this what you are implying?
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