United Airlines offers pilots triple pay to ease omicron flight disruptions
United Airlines jobsare offering triple pay for pick-up flights for the majority of January to help alleviate a staffing shortage caused by the rapid spread of the omicron variant of Covid-19.
Since December 23, United, Delta AirLines careers, JetBlue Airways, SkyWest, Alaska Airlines, and other carriers have canceled more than 10,000 flights, citing a combination of bad weather and an increase in sick calls from crews who tested positive for Covid.
The disruptions occur during what airline executives predict will be the busiest days since the pandemic began. According to the flight-tracking website FlightAware, nearly 1,500 flights in the United States were canceled on Friday. United canceled over 200 flights, accounting for about 11% of its mainline schedule.
Bryan Quigley, United's senior vice president of flight operations, said in a staff note seen by CNBC on Friday that the company and the pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association, had reached an agreement for higher pay to cover open trips.
According to the note, pilots jobs will be paid three and a half times their normal pay for flying open trips between December 30 and January 3, and triple pay for picking up trips between January 4 and January 29.
“Due to the rapid spread of the COVID Omicron variant, we are currently seeing record levels of sick pilot calls,” the pilots’ union wrote to its members. “The impact on the operation is clear and United has experienced a correspondingly large number of cancellations over the past week.”
Flight attendants at United are also being paid extra to pick up trips, and other airlines such as JetBlue, American, Southwest, and Spirit have increased crew pay to avoid holiday flight disruptions.