When you hear that a colleague has received some good news, how do you react?

Are you unabashedly happy for him or her? Or is there a part of you that turns green with envy.

The big news in the airline industry this week is that Delta Airlines is sharing $1.1 billion in profits with its employees this year--the fourth year in a row that they're sharing more than $1 billion.

Maybe your reaction to that news is bemusement, or a quick flash of interest because of the nice big number involved. Maybe you're curious enough to look and see if Delta might be hiring. (They are.)

But employees at other airlines aren't so thrilled.

American Airlines pilots are "getting more upset by the day" about the bonus gap, reports Lewis Lazare of the Chicago Business Journal. American Airlines employees, who originally signed a contract in 2015 didn't include any profit sharing, shared $241 million in 2017.

Even before the Delta announcement this week, the Allied Pilots Association (with 15,000 American pilots among its members), was insisting that the sharing gap was "unacceptable and not consistent with senior management's pledge to validate the trust."

Within the industry as a whole, Southwest Airlines employees are sharing about half as much, $543 million, while employees at United Airlines last year shared $349 million. 

Meantime, Delta's management is shouting its announcement from the rooftops.

Sharing more than $1 billion a year for four years in a row is "a milestone no company in history has ever achieved," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in announcing the figure this week. 

On a per employee basis, Delta workers win out as well.

The highest paid airline employees outside of management are airplane captains. At Delta, captains will get bonuses of between $29,000 and $59,000, according to an analysis by the Allied Pilots Association.

Compare that to United captains, who get between $9,300 and $20,500 and captains at American who get between $3,600 to $7,500.

The Delta announcement means bonuses remain steady despite the fact that the airline recently reported annual profits that are actually down about 18 percent: $3.6 billion in 2017, after $4.4 billion in 2016.

Delta says its employees are making 80 percent more today than they were in 2008. Outside of the bonus program, the airline cites an 18.5 percent pay raise in 2015, and another 6 percent raise in 2017.

Meantime, the airline was the highest rated industry employer in Glassdoor's ranking of the best places to work (#18). The only other airline in the top 50 was Southwest (#23). (United just missed the cut, at #55.)

Published on: Feb 15, 2018
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