Holiday travel: Delta CEO says no pilot strike during high-demand period

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Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian on Monday assured travelers that its pilots won't go on strike during the critical holiday travel season.

"There is no possibility they [pilots] could go on strike for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any time," he said when asked about the looming threat of a strike during an interview on the "Today" show. "I say that with confidence. There is no strike coming," Bastian added. 

If they did, it would be "against the law of the country," Bastian added. 

However, the union said that's not the case.

Delta pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), tweeted that "CEO Ed Bastian got it wrong" and that "the law of the U.S. allows unions to strike."

DELTA PILOTS OPEN VOTING FOR STRIKE AUTHORIZATION AS CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS FALTER

The comments came a week after Delta pilots overwhelmingly voted to authorize union leaders to strike, if necessary, to get a new contract agreement with the carrier.  

Delta Air Lines passenger jets rest on the tarmac, July 21, 2021, at Boston Logan International Airport, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File / AP Newsroom)

The union is frustrated with how long it's been taking to get a deal done, saying its pilots are working under pay rates, contractual provisions and benefits that were negotiated six years ago. Negotiations for a new contract started in April 2019 but were paused in March 2020 for nearly two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Talks resumed in January 2022.

Travelers move through the ticketing area of Delta Air Lines in Chicago. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

Bastian said Monday that the two parties are in mediation with the National Mediation Board and that there are many stages to go through first before a strike is even possible. 

Delta also issued a similar statement last week, saying that "under that federal law, there are many steps remaining in the process and many opportunities left for collaborative negotiations before a strike is even allowed to be considered." 

DELTA AIR LINES PILOTS PICKET NATIONWIDE FOR BETTER CONTRACT AMID FLIGHT DISRUPTIONS

Before a strike can even take place, the ALPA says the National Mediation Board must decide that any other mediation efforts would not be helpful and offer both sides the opportunity to arbitrate the contract dispute. If either side declines, then ALPA and Delta enter a "cooling off" period of 30 days, "after which pilots and management can engage in self-help—a strike by the union or a lockout by management," according to the ALPA. 

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DALDELTA AIR LINES INC.32.76+0.79+2.47%

Bastian said he was confident that a strike wouldn't happen even after the 30-day period, which could come around Christmas. 

The chief executive also expressed confidence in the pilot union and the carrier's ability to come to an agreement, saying "we're actually a lot closer than people like to think, in terms of getting this deal done." 

Delta told FOX Business last week that "ALPA's stated purpose for the vote is simply to gain leverage in our pilot contract negotiations, which continue to progress under the normal process set by the Railway Labor Act and in partnership with the National Mediation Board." 

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The carrier also said it's confident, after making significant progress in negotiations, that both parties will reach a "fair and equitable" agreement. 

The negotiating committee will be back at the table this week to negotiate over the remaining high-value items, according to the ALPA. 

The union says any "lack of a serious and realistic movement at the table…would obviously undermine any claim by the Company that it is seeking to conclude negotiations in a timely manner." 

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