Delta pilots picketing at JFK Airport

Off-duty Delta Air Lines pilots on Thursday picketed at airports around the country, including John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. After two years of pandemic-related travel ups and downs, the pilots say they're fed up with the pace of their contract negotiations. They're asking for pay raises, an increase in retirement fund contributions, and a say over where they fly.

At the start of the pandemic, contract talks were put on hold. And after clocking tons of overtime over the last two years, pilots are ready to be compensated. 

"It's been six years since we've negotiated our contract and three years since we've had a pay raise,' pilot David Adler told FOX 5 NY. "We've flown more overtime than 2018 and 2019 combined."

The off-duty pilots said Delta needs to invest in its pilots.

In a statement, a Delta spokesperson said the airline, the pilots' union, and a mediator are back at the negotiating table and that the airline intends to do right by the pilots.

"Our goal remains to continue providing Delta pilots with an industry-leading overall contract with the best compensation based on pay, retirement, work rules, and profit sharing," the spokesperson said. "We're also committed to making sure the contract language supports our ability to run a world-class operation, maintain a strong balance sheet, and invest in our business for our customers and employees alike."

Delta took the unusual step this week of warning travelers that there could be problems over the July 4 holiday weekend because of various challenges. The airline expects huge crowds and is even letting passengers booked on flights between Friday and Monday change their itinerary at no cost.

"Delta people are working around the clock to rebuild Delta's operation while making it as resilient as possible to minimize the ripple effect of disruptions," the airline said in a statement. 

Delta had by far the most canceled flights of any U.S. airline over the Memorial Day holiday stretch, when U.S. carriers scrubbed nearly 2,800 flights, and again last weekend, when it canceled 7% of its flights, according to FlightAware.

A number of transportation-related private and public employers are dealing with staffing shortages, including airlines, airports, the FAA's air-traffic control operations, and the TSA.

With FOX 5 NY's Christine Russo and The Associated Press.