Delta has tentative labor contract with pilots

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is the nation’s third-biggest commercial air carrier.

The union for pilots at Delta Air Lines Inc. says negotiators have reached a tentative contract agreement with the airline.

The deal announced Thursday goes next to an executive committee of the union, which could set a ratification vote among Delta pilots.

Terms were not disclosed.

If ratified, the deal would mark an early completion to negotiations that can become testy and drawn-out in the heavily unionized airline industry. Airline contracts don’t expire but instead become open for renewal — something that wasn’t due to happen with the Delta pilots’ contract until December.

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Delta, based in Atlanta, is the nation’s third-biggest airline company by traffic, behind American and United, and it’s the largest carrier serving Charleston International Airport by that same measurement.

Its pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, which said it prepared for the negotiations for a year.

Airline labor groups are demanding better pay now that the carriers are earning record profits. Delta reported net income of $659 million last year, although that included write-downs of fuel-hedging contracts. Without such items, Atlanta-based Delta would have earned $2.8 billion.