Fellow Delta pilots,

As we approach Section 6 negotiations, we will all be increasing our focus on what we are paid, what benefits are available to us and our families, and the quality of our life and work environments; in other words, what we receive in exchange for the job we do.

Discussions are already taking place about how to craft the input we’re receiving, from various sources, into priorities for improving our work rules, pay rates, scope protections and retirement benefits, commensurate with our skill, expertise, commitment to safety and customer service. Many pilots coming from other carriers or the military, as well as those of us who have experienced extended industry downturns, recognize the current relatively optimistic environment. So, rather than focusing on how good or bad things are now, or were in the past, please consider a question, the answer to which should remain constant, regardless of prevailing economic conditions: what is the value of an airline pilot in general, and more specifically, a Delta pilot?

There are obvious qualities that make us valuable to our customers and our company, including our dedication to safety, our decision making, judgment skills, and technical and operational expertise. However, there is one thing that makes us uniquely different from the similarly compensated professionals at our level—time.

Our tenure as Delta pilots is our value, and our greatest point of leverage. Executives, doctors and other professionals can be considered wage earners on par with an airline pilot. Some of the most successful people in other professions are the ones who transfer from company to company, seizing opportunities to transition to new jobs in search of a better deal. Throughout the years that many of us have been here, we have experienced changes in management—chairmen, CEOs, VPs, and other leaders who have come and gone. For Delta pilots, and most airline pilots, it’s different.

We are the constant. The permanent, committed, professional employees that make up the pilot group are key to what the executives and marketing experts have branded as the “Delta Difference.” The ability of any airline or company to brand premium service is dependent upon the consistency and commitment of the permanent employees. Delta has been able to successfully differentiate itself in large part through years of dedicated, “above and beyond” efforts from the pilot group.

We have and will continue to adapt to new demands and changing leadership while maintaining our unwavering commitment to safety and service. Most members of the management teams in place during 9/11 and the subsequent bankruptcy years have long since departed, but we are still here.

We do not have the benefit of a “golden parachute” clause nor the ability to jump from company to company to leverage our skills to the highest paying employer. We do deserve to be appropriately compensated for our value and skills. Our next opportunity to assure that we are is starting now, on the eve of next year’s Section 6 negotiations. This opportunity comes with the expectations that our contributions will be recognized, but also the realization that exemplary recognition will only be achieved via a focused, engaged pilot group with strong common goals.

Many of us have been through the worst of times and the painful climb back to the top; now that the tides have turned, we expect Delta to express the same commitment to us that we have demonstrated toward the Company in both good and bad times. We all have the strong desire that Delta will be our last airline. We have given years of our careers, and many of us have years left to give, so that Delta could be built into, and remain, the industry-leading airline that it is. The gains we make in Contract 2019 must be commensurate with our value to Delta Air Lines. It is time for Delta to answer the question: What is the value of the Delta pilot?


In Solidarity,


Bill Bartels

Chairman – Delta MEC