Atlanta Delta Air Lines and its pilots union reached a tentative agreement on a new contract Sunday, ending fears the nation's third-largest airline would be crippled by a strike by the end of the month.
The agreement, which requires the approval of the union's rank-and-file, came during a weekend of talks with the National Mediation Board in Washington.
"This agreement will make Delta pilots the best paid in the industry and will provide other industry-leading improvements," company chairman Leo Mullin said in a statement. "Delta people in every job deserve our special gratitude for their consummate professionalism during the negotiating process."
Delta and its 9,800 pilots have been trying to agree on a new contract for 19 months.
The Air Line Pilots Assn. said the contract included pay increases of 24 to 34 percent for Delta pilots between now and 2005 and pay increases of 63 percent by 2005 for pilots at Delta Express, the carrier's lower-cost unit. The union said the contract also includes retirement, job security and vacation improvements.
"We are pleased that we were able to achieve a collective agreement through the collective bargaining process and without government intervention," union spokesman Charles Giambusso said. "This is proof that if both parties are committed to the process, a solution beneficial to everyone can be reached."
"It's a huge contract, and obviously we haven't had time to discern everything that's been going on over the last five days," spokesman Russ Williams said.
The airline stung by lagging sales caused by the labor unrest had lobbied for the White House to intervene in the dispute. The company hoped President Bush would appoint a presidential emergency board to study the disagreement.
Under the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline and railroad labor contracts, a presidential emergency board can be appointed to study the situation and recommend a contract.