Contract negotiations between Delta Air Lines and its pilots union are unlikely to produce an "on-time" deal by May 1 as had been hoped, company and union officials conceded yesterday.
"It's going to be very tough to get it done by that deadline," said Delta Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Leo Mullin.
"The chances have diminished because of the pace of the past four weeks or so," said Charles Giambusso, chairman of Delta's Air Line Pilots Association unit.
The two spoke in separate interviews.
Delta and the pilots union opened contract talks in September, six months ahead of schedule by mutual agreement. The goal was a deal by May 1, when the current contract becomes amendable.
So far, several technical sections of the new accord have been negotiated and scheduling issues are being discussed.
But some of the stickiest issues -- including pay rates -- have yet to hit the table.
The pilots union, still smarting from its last contract, which it considered a major concession, is expected to seek hefty pay increases, a board seat with voting power and new limits on Delta's use of regional jets flown by lower-paid pilots employed by subsidiaries.
"We feel good and I think the union feels good about the talks so far, but the problem is, discussions on the really tough elements of compensation have not yet occurred," Mullin said.
"I find it hard to believe we can get it done by May 1, but if not I hope it will be soon thereafter, and certainly there's nothing in terms of attitude holding us up," he said. "It's just a work issue."
Giambusso said he proposed last month that talks take a faster pace. "The company responded to some degree, but it still hasn't really accelerated progress," he said.
Even with talks beginning early, an on-time pilot contract would have been highly unusual for the airline industry.
Such talks typically run for more than a year and usually result in federal mediation.
Under airline labor law, union contracts do not expire at the amendable date; they continue until a new deal is agreed upon or a strike occurs.