Spirit Airlines is seeking a solution to retain its pilots by offering big raises in a new tentative contract. The ultra-low-cost carrier reportedly offered a cumulative weighted average pay raise of more than 40% to pilots on Friday.
The proposed deal comes as airlines across the US are working fast to hire more pilots. It is Spirit’s latest strategy this year to combat the ongoing pilot shortage that the industry has experienced since strict pandemic travel restrictions were lifted, allowing demand to skyrocket.
A pay bump for pilots
According to Reuters, Spirit detailed the contract in a memo sent on Friday. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing Spirit’s pilots, said the deal would raise cumulative weighted average pay for first officers to 43%. Comparatively, captains would see an increase of 25% over two years. The deal would raise cumulative weighted average pay rates by 34% for Spirit’s pilots overall.
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
The ALPA also said the two-year agreement would give pilots an economic gain of $463 million or 27%. Pilots are set to vote on the deal; if approved, it will become effective on January 1st. The ALPA reportedly has roadshows planned to start next week to generate support for the contract. A voting date has not been shared.
Different from previous contracts
Spirit’s pilot union head Ryan Muller spoke about the tentative deal in a statement to Reuters.
“This agreement…stands in stark contrast to previous bargaining cycles at Spirit and other large jet carriers, where pilots have endured years of stagnating compensation while negotiating comprehensive pilot contracts.” – Ryan Muller, Spirit Airlines Pilot Union Head
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The ALPA noted that 3,100 pilots would be covered in the proposed deal. According to Reuters, it also provides higher training pay and increased contribution to 401(k) and involves no concessions on the part of Spirit pilots. Simple Flying contacted Spirit Airlines for comment but did not hear back.
Addressing the national pilot shortage
The carrier’s deal is a retaining strategy that other airlines have done, allowing pilots to enjoy enhanced bargaining power during the shortage. Last week, Delta Air Lines offered a 34% cumulative pay increase to its pilots over three years in a new contract, and regional carrier SkyWest Airlines doubled its pay for all pilots in September.
Additionally, airlines have been offering pilot training programs that require little to no experience to combat the challenging shortage. In October, Spirit announced it would launch a new pilot pathway program. Ultra-low-cost rival Frontier Airlines started a similar program earlier in the month.
According to Reuters, analysts at Jefferies estimate the US is short of 10,000 pilots, with the supply-demand gap projected to last until 2027, but the ALPA said help is on the way. Last month, the union released a report indicating a surplus of new pilots.
The report incorporated data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the current number of pilots. Findings revealed that nearly 10,000 Commercial Pilot Certificates were issued in the past year, putting the industry on track to surpass the demand that airlines currently experience.