Yesterday, Delta Air Lines said that if their pilots were to go on strike, it would be'murder-suicide' for the third largest airline in the U.S. That's right, folks - we're looking at a very distinct possibility that come next week, Delta may not exist anymore.
Sure, we've heard it all before - United was going to fail back in '02. It was going to be curtains for American back in '03. And just how many times has everyone - myself included - stuck a fork in US Airways, pronouncing them dead? The most recent time was during last December. But now US Airways has a relatively promising future ahead of them, with the merger with America West and all that. In short, since 9/11 and the resulting industry tailspin, we have yet to see a major US legacy carrier bite the dust. Everyone knows that it will take just one carrier to collapse for the situation to improve drastically for everyone else. So it's been a game of chicken so far - and although all those airlines have filed for Chapter 11 or warned about Chapter 7 - nobody's actually gone under yet.
So could a strike by the pilots really kill Delta? Well, first we'd have to see whether the pilots are really going to strike or not. Delta wants $325 million more out of their payroll - on top of the $1 billion they conceded last year. If the pilot's contract is rejected in bankruptcy court, the ALPA has warned, the 6000 pilots at Delta will walk off the job. And according to the company, that would be illegal, saying that the Railway Labor Act would prevent such a thing. The RLA basically makes the would-be strikers resort to bargaining, mediation, arbitration, etc. instead of actually striking.
What's the company saying about this? They're basically dismissing it as a hollow threat. I believe that the top brass at Delta think that the pilots won't really strike. After all, a pilots strike by Eastern Airlines pilots in 1989 virtually killed the company. But it's definately a news item worth watching. Delta may believe that its pilots are just blowing smoke, but if you reported a $1.13 billion quarterly loss just a few days ago, wouldn't you be worried?