Delta Asks Judge to Prevent Pilot Slowdown

A T L A N T A, Dec. 7, 2000 -- Lawyers for Delta Air Lines asked a federal judge Wednesday to help “save” holiday travel from massive disruption by ordering pilots to work overtime.

“We’re here to discuss with the court if we can save Christmas, New Year’s, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa,” said attorney William Kaspers, representing Delta. “We’re looking at a crisis coming around the holidays.”

U.S. District Judge Willis Hunt Jr. said he would rule Friday on Delta’s request for a restraining order against the union that represents its 9,800 pilots.

The nation’s third-largest airline contends that pilots have stopped requesting voluntary overtime to pressure the company in ongoing contract talks. Delta calls the move an “illegal job action” that has forced it to cancel hundreds of flights since last month.

The union denies initiating a work slowdown.

The airline said it canceled 386 flights between Friday and Sunday, affecting 43,000 travelers. The union said crew unavailability caused only 274 flights to be canceled during that period.

Slower Holiday Season Possible

United Airlines and Northwest Airlines also have recently complained that workers involved in contract negotiations are causing flight delays or cancellations. Unions for both airlines have denied the allegations.

The labor unrest could mean some travel disruptions and hassles during the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Delta has been in contract negotiations with the pilots since September 1999. Under their existing contract, Delta pilots are free to decide whether to fly extra hours but many have been declining overtime assignments since last month, when Delta presented the union with a 10-year pay proposal that pilots contend is inadequate.

Delta is seeking to tie pilots’ future pay with the company’s financial performance. The pilots want a four-year deal offering annual raises.