Delta Air Lines Calls Out United, American For Shoddy Bonuses To Employees

Delta Air Lines, in its internal communications, is highlighting not just how much they’re paying out to employees in profit sharing – they’re highlighting how much better Delta employees have it than those who work for their largest competitors.

Now, this is a little bit unfair. United and American are more heavily unionized than Delta. United’s and American’s unions could have negotiated lower salaries, more profit sharing, but chose not to do so. American voluntarily added profit sharing for employees who chose base pay instead in their negotiations. At Delta, profit sharing is baked in as a larger portion of total expected comp.

Nonetheless, Delta both tends to make more money (has more profit to share) and pay out a greater percentage of that money to employees. Their profit sharing totals are large.

And for Delta’s non-union work groups, the company proactive offers significant pay increases and makes industry-leading moves like paying flight attendants for time spent boarding.

While AFA-CWA is working to unionize Delta’s flight attendants it’s pretty clear that voting for this would not make cabin crew better off even though it’s almost inconceivable that flight attendants at other airlines would choose not to be members of a union.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It would be nice to see what this breaks down to for certain job positions at DL. For example what would say a typical 25-yr A350 captain’s bonus be?

  2. This is a straight up anti-union ploy. I’ve seen it many times before. Delta continues to offer its employees less and lie to its employees. Pretty much the worst of the majors to work for.

  3. David,
    airline pilot central dot com has pay rates for all of the US airlines. It doesn’t include all of the factors that influence pay but a 25 year old A350 captain is top of scale.
    Delta’s profit sharing is paid at the same percentage across all workgroups and is usually posted as parts of discussions as part of airline pilot forums. The profit sharing percentage for other airlines is often posted there as well. Pilot profit sharing can easily go into the tens of thousands of dollars.

    Gary made the perfect case for why Delta employees other than their pilots are not unionized. If a union has to choose between profit sharing and pay raises, they aren’t succeeding.
    And Delta’s pilots are unionized like other airlines and yet Delta pilots make more in profit sharing.

    The real reason why Delta profit sharing is higher is because of the revenue premium Delta gets for passenger services, the much higher amount of revenue it gets from its loyalty program (which requires very few employees to generate), its refinery (which reduces Delta’s fuel costs and adds revenue (the refinery workers are unionized but still involves a relatively small amount of employees) and the maintenance service (MRO) operations which bring in much more high margin business than any airline gets flying passengers.

    Delta couldn’t talk about profit sharing during the pandemic but certainly can now and the profit sharing will grow as they restore capacity and regrow their network. While Southwest has long had profit sharing, it is much more restricted in how employees can access it.

    and given that AA, UA and WN still has large numbers of employee groups with open labor contracts, Delta’s message is to help those airlines’ unions put pressure on their airlines to pony up cash for richer contracts.

  4. At least about the HQ folks, delta employees are well known among the major airlines as paying their folks a pitifully low salary, but at least they get a nice bonus (most years…), I guess.

  5. This is complete bogus. Delta gives you miles and perks to spew these lies. You are not even an airline employee. We are not dumb. We know our profession and what our colleagues make at other airlines. D is far from anywhere near the top. Except the CEO.

  6. Delta also only pays mainline employees profit sharing and screws over all wholly owned businesses. AA pays profit sharing to their wholly owned subsidiaries. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I would never go back to DL now that I have the drunk glasses off

  7. Remember that Delta cut employee salaries and hours during the pandemic. They are non union and can do that.
    Also Remember Delta is nonunion so you are an at-will employee and can be fired at any time. What good is a profit sharing check if the company can fire you at any time and for any reason or none at all. No thanks! I’ll take a union contract any day.

  8. Hahahaha what a joke how delta is able to flat out like is remarkable!!!!! We don’t get ANY bonuses and I make 14 an hr!!!!!!!!!! So no delta doesn’t give us bonuses and delta and united are one company where I’m from called unifi!!! Smh what a joke!

  9. This was clearly created as anti-union propaganda, so thanks for amplifying Delta’s message. There is more to a pay and benefits package than just profit sharing, or salary. Delta is self insured and provides poor quality and expensive health care benefits to their front line employees. They don’t want to unionize, because then their healthcare costs will go through the roof. Delta is notoriously cheap. They are brilliant at saving money and finding new revenue sources, while maintaining a brand of upper quality. It’s the employee pride that provides that Delta experience and they deserve better.
    The profit sharing schtick is a nice perk, but Delta likes to play it both ways. They call it a bonus, but they sell it as yearly income when comparing it to other airlines. It’s not something we can rely on, though, so that’s not really accurate or fair.
    CEO Ed Bastian made 12.4 million last year. 3 million more than the next highest paid airline CEO. The employees received 5% profit sharing after bringing the company back in the black from losing 100 million dollars a day and going two years without a bonus. Managers got their contractual bonuses during the pandemic.
    Delta Pilots are the only unionized workgroup and profit sharing is in their contract, as well as a 16% direct contribution to their 401K.
    It’s obvious that flight attendants at Delta would be better off with a contract.

  10. “,,, United’s and American’s unions could have negotiated lower salaries, more profit sharing, but chose not to do so.”

    Is that what they in fact did? Was the yearly gross (on average) at AA or UA greater than DL? If DL base matches UA/AA, then this is a non-starter argument.

  11. so, were you Delta mainline or Delta subsidiary?
    If you were Delta mainline – which your user name suggests, then you gave up profit sharing to go to AA or its subsidiaries.
    Obviously profit sharing isn’t the only employment factor, but let’s be honest about where you came from and where you are going.
    AA might start generating profits on par w/ DL sometime in the near future – I am bullish about their turnaround plan – but their labor contracts even today won’t deliver profit sharing on par with DL at the same level of corporate profits, in part because AA has so many more employees.

    As for AS, their profit sharing might be higher as a percentage for 2022 but AS salaries are considerably lower than DL’s and that is confirmable from the Airline Data Project. And for many years pre-covid, AS’ profit margin trailed DL’s considerably. It would be great if AA and AS and everyone else all give handsome profit sharing to their employees on top of top of industry salaries but the Delta graphic at the top is accurate based on data that each airline provides.

  12. For mainline DL, that’s great. However, there are many, many people in the regionals throughout the US. I’ve worked for a wholly owned DL subsidiary and an AA one. DL treated it’s subsidiaries poorly. The icing on the cake was when mainline DL got their profit sharing bonus. Even though the subsidiary I worked for had DL in the name and worked their flights, and to the Joe Schmoe in the airports was indistinguishable, the subsidiary got jack squat. AA treats their subsidiaries the same as mainline except obviously pay. (but at a regional you’ll never get mainline pay, so that’s expected) Their wholly owneds get full flight benefits and yes, they get profit sharing. Do I wish the profit sharing were higher? Yes, of course. But it helps a lot more people than DL.

  13. For mechanics, Delta is industry leading in pay and profit sharing and has one of the best 401k matches despite being non union. They offer their maintenance more than any other major airline.

  14. The real issue here is which airline employees (by group) have more income at the end of the year. It would be interesting if someone could rank the major airlines over the past 10 years including profit sharing and benefits.

  15. Delta pays you to say this. Delta is not a better company and does NOT do more for its employees. All this is part of the big PR machine DL has pandering to the masses. They do rip off customers and don’t compensate employees for all the bs that goes into the scam. Delta prides itself on charging a 20% premium for the same products other carriers offer. “Because we can.” It adds more work and stress to the employees workload for no reward. DL does not take care of its employees the way union companies do. They only care about squeezing every dime possible from customers. Every single decision Delta makes is to get MORE money out of customers without adding any benefit. The releases are written to sound good to the consumer. Delta will deteriorate quickly if they don’t start taking care of their employees. It’s happening already. The anti union people are getting very upset. This weak paid propaganda is appalling.

  16. whistleblower (really what have you told us?)
    Delta is a business just like every other airline. They charge what customers are willing to pay. Period. Plenty of people would argue that other airlines rip off customers but people VOLUNTARILY pay what those airlines charge.

    And, as much as you want to believe otherwise, this article is about employee pay, not revenue. Every airline can come up with multiple ways of paying their people but Delta people do make more than AA or UA people. WN people on average make the most – but also are much more productive. It is precisely because every airline is adding large mainline aircraft which are more efficient than the aircraft they replace that WN’s cost advantage is eroding but so far WN employees are still the highest paid employees on average.

    Employee related data is available from a site call airline data project which is sourced from filings from each airline to the DOT.

    As for health premiums at Delta, its pilots are voting on a new contract that reduces the premiums which means those reductions will likely be passed along to DL’s other employees. DL’s non-union employees got some pay raises during the pandemic that pilots did not including boarding pay for DL flight attendants but they have not received the massive pay raises that a number of pilots including DL’s will get as part of the new contract.

    DL non-union employees will likely see another pay raise after the contract is improved.

    Delta’s publication of this info comes just as other airlines are negotiating new labor contracts so Delta is trying to show its employees how much better they have it and to put pressure on unions at other airlines.

  17. Hmmm okay but what is their sick leave policy? Word on the street is if you call out more than 3 times in a year you’re at major risk for termination. Also if you exceed 7 days you need an abscence certificate? Delta loves to throw money at FA’s to get them to shut up and not be pro union but clearly money doesn’t solve everything. 🙂

  18. @Gary Leff

    No thanks lol I know a ton of former AA Flight attendants that have left for UA. They already told me AA is trash and the whole chili incident is evidence. UA has a great attendance policy imo and are way above Delta.

  19. Yeah, but the upside of working at AA is….. well there actually is no upside. Miss my co-workers but don’t miss anything else. United and Delta might have their problems as well but they at least don’t work in a hostile environment. Never got any profit sharing from my time at AA either. I’m back at Delta now and sure there are pluses and minuses but it’s certainly a much better fit than AAG.

  20. Delta likes to toot its own horn about profit sharing. However, Delta does not care to talk about how for practically decades they had “ready reserve”. This was an unbenefited, part time position, often with a cap at $15 per hour and could work a max of 1600 hours per year. Delta eliminated full time jobs and replaced them with ready reserve. United, American, and Southwest never had this. Their part-time employees were largely on the same payscale as full-time employees and were benefited too. This was due to those employees having representation via a union. Delta likes to squeeze blood from a stone and honestly, a lot of their workers are pissed off at this point. I’ve never seen the union drive as strong as it is now. The folks above and below wing are all over worked and underpaid and Ed Bastion is too aloof to think otherwise. This piece frankly comes across as tone deaf.

  21. It is interesting that I find 95% of the DL cabin crew to be happy, professional and a pleasure to have serve me. If that costs more then I’ll happily pay.
    I don’t work for DL. I’ve flown WN since 1972, CO from 1979 – 2010 and live in the PNW where AS is king.
    Still prefer Delta.

  22. The only reason Delta can afford to pay their employees is because their employees are ready reserve. They only work 20 hours a week. What Delta is paying them in a “bonus” is what they should’ve been paid for three months. Great tactic.

  23. A lot of pro union lies in the comments. I’ll start with an easy one: Delta flight attendants are not at-will employees, despite what other comments may claim.

  24. Delta has screwed over most of their below wing employees by selling off 51% of their global services subsidiary. It destroyed the one true benefit of being an airline employee. The safety of the equipment is terrible. The pay is terrible. If those employees are lucky enough to get a seat flying, now the government rules treat those flights as imputed income. That means the folks still working for the new company, UNIFI, are taxed for those flights on top of the lousy $15 they make for ensuring flights go out safe and on time. Delta/ Ed Bastian could care less about the people that work their flights.

  25. I find the negative comments about Delta, amusing. The whole purpose of any large corporation is to provide investment growth to the investors. Most of the negatives against Delta, that I read above, sound like sour grapes to me. After 24 years with the company, I consistently see where a “family” will have squabbles BUT, in the end, we pull together to get the job done. We don’t have to worry about going to “the toilet paper changers union” to get another roll. We just go get it! (no such thing but the point is…we just get the job done). Contractors, whether regional carriers, foodservice, etc. are NOT part of Delta. They are…CONTRACTORS. Their salary and benefits are based on their company…NOT DELTA. Yes, Delta sold off Delta Global Services which was a wholly owned SUBSIDIARY. Those employees were CONTRACTORS anyway. DGS employees had the same opportunities to advance into Delta provided they had the qualifications and actually APPLIED for the jobs. “Ready reserve” employees could always apply for a full time position and, if qualified, would become “full time” Delta. Of course, it’s easy to criticize when you look through the window. Delta may charge more or less than competitors “seat for seat” but, someone must then explain to me, WHY our flights are full? Maybe it’s because we provide a better overall service. All one has to do is look at the negatives posed against our competitors vs the number of negatives against us. “An employee’s devotion to his or her company, dedication to the job and consideration for the customer determine a company’s reputation.” – C.E. Woolman – Founder Delta Air Lines, Inc. ’nuff said.

  26. Omsflyer says

    A friend just completed 50 years with UA. Her gift – a paper certificate signed by the big shots congratulating her on this accomplishment. Pretty tacky. BTW she was not expecting a bonus.

  27. Bootlicking Gary Leff is not at all concerned about the plight of workers — but concerned about helping Delta peddle its cheap anti-union propaganda.

  28. DL employees work more hours, have less voice and actually make less than UA, AA and even SW. The truth is DL talk a good game but their employees aren’t all that happy and looking to unionize. DL also has the highest fare, the oldest planes and does more off shore cheap maintenance then the other major US airlines. I loved NWA but agreed with my MPS gate agent right after the merger when he said” Welcome to Northwest Flight ###, the better part of the new Delta”.

  29. I’m a Delta flight attendant for Delta for 25 yrs and Delta has been good to us. Some AA and United f/as are coming over to Delta. I have flown with them.
    They love being here and our culture! I rarely heard of a Delta f/a leaving for another airline so that speaks volumes.

  30. I decided to retire from Delta in-flight after 30 years when they stopped paying me $70 bucks/hr. to almost half that, then took away a wk. of my vacation. You pro- union employees, I get $200/month pension after retiring after 30 yrs. Wake up people.

  31. I am a retired Northwest/Delta pilot. All the employee groups at Northwest were unionized. When Northwest merged with Delta, all the employee groups except the pilots held representative elections for union representation. The mechanics, flight attendants, gate agents, baggage handlers and all the other smaller labor groups all voted no. Prior to the merger only the Delta pilots were represented by a union, ALPA, at Delta. There is a reason for that which is Delta management understands that the airline is a service company and all of their employees are the ones who provide that service. So they have chosen to treat their employees well, including a very generous profit sharing program. The pilot union gave up nothing to be a part of that profit sharing program.
    It is not accident or just luck that Delta leads the industry in one-time performance, baggage handling, customer satisfaction, safety, profitability and all the other metrics of performance. Richard Anderson, who was the CEO at the time of the merger worked to create a great airline by paying attention to all the things that made that happen. At the top of the list is treating all their employees well with industry leading pay, benefits and work rules. They spent the money on all the computer systems needed maximize on time performance, yield management, baggage handling, crew management, airport facilities, dispatching and weather systems, operations recovery systems, maintenance and more. The profit sharing is an honest sharing of the company’s success with all the people who make it happen. We had a profit sharing program at Northwest that never paid out a dime. Northwest management paid lip service to being a great airline but sadly we never were. Delta’s performance within the industry speaks for itself and anyone who disputes that doesn’t know what the hell they are talking about

  32. So this dumbf$@$ call out other airlines when this garbage company doeant even have a UNION. and this CLOWNS have the audacity to know why other airlines are getting a smaller profit sharing this is so LAUGHABLE WHAT A BUNCH OF CLOWNS

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