Delta Air Lines happy with pilot contract rules for regional flights: CEO

MONTREAL (Reuters) – Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) Chief Executive Ed Bastian said on Friday he was satisfied with pilot contract language governing the outsourcing of regional flights and does not see it becoming an issue during upcoming negotiations.

FILE PHOTO: Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines at the 2016 International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit in Dublin, Ireland, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Bastian said he was “happy with existing” language, or scope clauses, which set guidelines on the size of planes that can be operated by regional feeder carriers, among other things.

Commercial planemakers are closely watching for any change in pilot scope clauses, which bar planes heavier than 86,000 pounds (39,000 kg) with more than 76 seats from regional routes, where pilots are generally paid less than their mainline counterparts. Pilots are fiercely opposed to any changes.

Delta’s contract with its pilots becomes amendable in 2019.

Bastian was speaking at a Montreal-area factory run by Europe’s Airbus (AIR.PA) as the No. 2 U.S. carrier takes delivery of its first A220 jet.

The 110-seat narrowbody aircraft will serve as a “cornerstone of domestic growth” on the carrier’s mainline routes, Bastian said.

United Airlines (UAL.O) has already faced pushback from pilots after asking for changes to its scope clauses.

American Airlines (AAL.O) pilots are not expecting any demands from the carrier to change scope clauses when negotiations kick off in January 2019, said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for their union, the Allied Pilots Association.

Scope clauses have become an issue for Brazil’s Embraer SA (EMBR3.SA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (7011.T) of Japan, which are building new planes that are too heavy to be flown by regional carriers because they exceed the weight requirement.

Earlier this month, Embraer said it removed a 100-plane order from its backlog due to uncertainty about whether pilots would agree to fly its E175-E2 for U.S. regional carriers, because the plane exceeded scope weight limits.

Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Tom Brown

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