Wow: Delta Air Lines Raises Pay 5% Across The Board, Adds New $19 Minimum Wage

Delta Air Lines just announced a 5% across-the-board pay increase for its non-union workforce. It’s the third year in a row of pay increases, and follows February’s $1.4 billion profit-sharing payout.

The airline is also instituting a new $19 per hour minimum starting wage. Both changes go into effect June 1, and combine for an annualized expected cost of $500 million in increased wages. Minimum starting wage employees will earn $5,000 more per year than they currently do. The announcement also includes a 5% merit pool for bonus-eligible employees.

CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a letter to employees (which I’ve shared below in full),

Delta’s leading position comes thanks to a simple concept that dates back nearly a century – invest in our people first, and they will deliver great service and experiences for our customers. That’s exactly what you do, and it always sets us apart. And it’s why I’m happy to be announcing our next investment in you, a pay increase which will be effective June 1.

In contrast to other airlines with long-running contract negotiations (American Airlines flight attendants haven’t seen a raise since 2019), Delta raised wages for the third consecutive year. They raised wages in 2019 but then paused during the 2020 and 2021 pandemic years, though contra United and American did not furlough anyone during this period. They calculate “cumulative investments of 20-25% in compensation in each of our largest frontline workgroups since 2022.”

For a long time Delta has been able to say that their flight attendant pay was at the top of the industry. Southwest Airlines flight attendants just got a new contract that would see them become the new benchmark. In some sense that put pressure on Delta to raise wages – they don’t want their own cabin crew to latch onto a single example of unionized cabin crew doing better elsewhere – but Delta does seem to raise wages on its own, every year, regardless.

Of course Delta’s profit-sharing payouts are second to none because they’re the most profitable airline (they’re also the only airline that made money in the first quarter, setting aside 2.5 times as much for profit sharing as last year in the period), because no one offers a more generous profit sharing formula, and because they don’t have as many employees to split payouts across as, for instance, American does. As one American Airlines crewmember put it, don’t become a flight attendant “unless you’re going to Delta.”

Delta’s internal memo on pay changes follows:

Congratulations to everyone at Delta that will see higher pay starting June 1.

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. Good . All airlines ought now to raise their wages , especially for AA FAs .

    UA ought to add hazard pay because of the dogs .

  2. AA should REDUCE flight attendant pay….particularly for Jasmine who was in FC last week out of MCO. I’ve had better service on ValuJet.

  3. What about the thousands of contracted employees that serve delta. I’ve read previously delta has the highest percentage of third party workers. They aren’t getting $19

  4. The comments from their employees on Ed’s internal post are absolutely savage. It’s safe to say that the authoritarian DAL has upset a large amount of their employee base, including this employee.

    5% raise when inflation is 3.5%. I’ll gladly sign a union card.

    Shame on Delta senior leadership.

  5. @Kevin – their employer sets those wages

    Delta has ~ 103,000 employees.

    Around 20% of those are unionized.

    So this applies to ~ 80k workers.

  6. Am I right in thinking that these Delta employees will be making less than someone working at a Chipotle in Van Nuys? And Delta doesn’t even ask for tips (yet)!

  7. $19 is way too low for Seattle because that would be barely over minimum wage. For Jackson, Mississippi maybe too high,

    FA pay should be CUT at the senior level and increased at the junior level. The pay difference between senior and junior FA should be small. An FA whose worked for a long time doesn’t evacuate the plane faster. May be even slower?

    Presidents of the US don’t get a pay raise their second term. Medicaid doesn’t pay doctors more if they are more experienced or are specialists. Airfare has gotten cheaper since 1977.

  8. I’ll take the Union Free employer with a great profit sharing plan any day over the Union employer that takes years to negotiate one contract .

  9. Pretty sure that isn’t going to any to Delta Global employees who make up a huge amount of the workforce. They work in smaller stations and make around 10 to 12 dollars per hour.

  10. These “quick” pay raises are precisely why unions never manage to win union elections at Delta.
    As Gary notes, union FAs will wait years and many won’t get retro.
    And it is precisely because DL can afford these pay raises more than other airlines that the pressure on other airlines gets even greater.

    And Delta flies a lower percentage of its network on regional jets than any other airline. ALL airlines contract out a portion of services to subcontractors. DL INSOURCES more maintenance work than every other US airline.
    When you do more of your own core work – basic passenger transportation – than any other network airline – including regional jet flying – and do work for others, the argument doesn’t work that DL outsources more than other airlines

    and the Fed is looking less and less likely to cut interest rates – which will keep labor costs high and growing – but is considering the need to further tighten, although that won’t come before the election.

    Employees in all sectors of the economy better hope they work for a company that can cover rising inflation or be able to absorb it on their own.

  11. I am hopeful DL will remain largely non-union. There is a stark difference between DL and other airlines and I credit that to Delta being able to manage that service at a more engaging level than what can be done at other airlines. You can tell, in general, when flying other airlines that their staff just don’t care as much because they feel they can get away with providing the minimum.

  12. @Tim Dunn “union FAs will wait years and many won’t get retro.”

    Not only that, a majority of FAs can’t afford to wait for retro even if they get it, the way that many pilots can. As I’ve noted, first and second-year Boston-based cabin crew at American Airlines are SNAP-eligible (food stamps).

  13. It’s good to learn that Delta Air Lines has raised worker pay for eligible ground employees and flight attendants worldwide to help it stay competitive with McDonald’s restaurants and remain a premium airline worldwide. This move reflects Delta’s commitment to fair and equitable employee compensation.

  14. @schmelta I used to work at a unionized competitor and let me warn you- we waited years for anything at all to change. And those years were nasty. Pickets and demonstrations in front of confused and frightened customers. Angry employees being awful to passengers. It was hard to endure. And after it was all said and done, we watched you at Delta pass right by us again. Please think hard before you sign anything, if I did it all over again- I’d have gone for Delta.

  15. If AA signs a juicy contract, it will bankrupt again soon. Unions are greedy, not smart.

  16. Yeah, unions are great. Wait years for contracts…oh wait, there is a union officer election this year? Wait another year to re-start contract negotiations. But you must pay your Union Dues, and we’ll raise them every year….oh and your Union officials will probably pocket money and over spend too….so that “strike fund” will probably last a couple months. Screw Unions.

  17. Bravo move by Delta – I’m wondering if they already have annual merit or automatic increases for most hourly and salaried staff?

  18. @derek

    Thanks for the laugh !! You truly are an idiot !! All FAs every year have to pass requal training. So when you try and bring in ageism here it doesn’t work.

  19. Perfect example of why unions should go the way of Blockbuster video… market conditions dictating what an employer should compensate their employees. Let the airlines fight for the best and most qualified employees. You might be surprised at the outcome from both a customer service and an employee satisfaction perspective.

  20. ja
    WN FAs got retro but let’s see what AA and UA give their FAs.
    They simply cannot afford retro on the scale that happened w/ pilots.
    WN has a fortress balance sheet.
    DL is not giving its non-pilot personnel retro but they didn’t have to wait years to get pay raises.

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