American Airlines CEO tells pilots the carrier is prepared to increase pay to up to $590,000 a year

Delta’s pilots last week ratified a four-year contract with 34% in cumulative raises.

American Airlines planes parked at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on Jan. 12.Aristide Economopoulos / Bloomberg via Getty Images file
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American Airlines is prepared to raise pilot pay to match Delta’s, including 40% cumulative increases in a potential four-year deal, CEO Robert Isom said in a message to pilots.

Last week, Delta became the first of the biggest U.S. airlines to reach a new contract with its 15,000 pilots. They ratified a four-year deal that grants them 34% cumulative raises and other quality-of-life improvements. The deal sets the stage for other airlines and unions to reach agreements.

The Covid travel slump paused contract negotiations, and talks were fraught when demand snapped back as pilots sought better compensation and schedules.

“Let me be clear, American is prepared to match Delta’s pay rates and provide American’s pilots with the same profit-sharing formula as Delta’s pilots,” Isom said in the message to pilots, sent Tuesday and seen by CNBC.

An agreement could include 21% pay increases in the first year of the contract, Isom said. Factoring in higher 401(k) contributions by the end of a four-year deal, a captain flying narrow-body planes would make $475,000 at the top of the scale, up $135,000 from current pay, while the most senior captains of wide-body planes would make $590,000 per year, a $170,000 increase from today.

Isom also vowed better scheduling and “more certainty” on when pilots would fly. Pilots across the industry have complained about frequent schedule changes during airlines’ rocky path to rebuilding networks to meet high travel demand. Aviators have also been in short supply.

The Allied Pilots Association, American Airlines pilots’ union, didn’t immediately comment on Isom’s statement.