Delta Air Lines pilots intensified their push for improved pay by insisting they will strike if they do not get a new contract.
With 96% of members participating in an Air Line Pilots Association union vote, 99% of Delta pilots "authorized union leaders to call a strike, if necessary, to achieve a new contractual agreement," the union said.
Delta pilots say they are working under an outdated contract from 2016. ALPA says that on-again, off-again contract talks began more than three years ago, and mediated talks resumed in January.
Pilots at other airlines - especially regional carriers - have negotiated substantial pay bumps this year as airlines deal with a pilot shortage.
"Our negotiations have dragged on for too long," Captain Jason Ambrosi of the Delta chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association said in a statement, noting that the airline recorded "record" revenues in the third quarter.
"Our goal is to reach an agreement, not to strike," Ambrosi said.
Walking off the job will not happen immediately. The ALPA says a mediation board must first weigh in on arbitration, then would enter a 30-day "cooling off" period. That means a strike could not begin before the Thanksgiving travel surge.
CNN has asked the union if a strike could impact Christmas travel.
"Delta pilots are not on strike, so this authorization vote will not affect our operation for our customers," a Delta spokesperson said in a statement. "Delta and ALPA have made significant progress in our negotiations and have only a few contract sections left to resolve. We are confident that the parties will reach an agreement that is fair and equitable, as we always have in past negotiations."
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