KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Unionized pilots at Delta Air Lines voted last week in favor of authorizing a strike, raising concerns about the future of aviation and possible impacts to the upcoming holiday travel season.
Craig Williams, director of the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport — an airport Delta flies in and out of — said he was not surprised it came to this.
“In a sense, the industry is cyclical,” Williams explained. “We follow a lot of these things.”
Williams said the current between the airline and union pilots is not an anomaly.
“This is just part of any negotiation. You work yourself, you work the other side. I think that’s just normal part of the negotiation process,” Williams said.
This week, members of the Air Line Pilots Association who fly Delta voted in favor of having union leaders call a strike “if necessary” to get a new contract.
But with the matter still in arbitration, David Slotnick, senior aviation business reporter for travel website The Points Guy, said there is a long way to go before that happens.
“It would still be a couple months from now because the National Mediation Board would have to end this arbitration, which doesn’t happen overnight,” Slotnick explained. “It’s a pretty extreme thing if they choose to do that.”
If the strike becomes official, the long-term effects could be serious. Raymond Thompson, who serves as interim dean of Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, argued it would further aggravate the pilot shortage.
“Should one of the carriers go on strike, it becomes a lot of individual decisions: Do pilots cross the picket line, choose to honor that?” Thompson said. “But typically, you’re going to see some disruptions in flights canceled. If there are fewer pilots than we currently have available today, something has to give.”
In the short term, Slotnick said the possible strike itself won’t be much of an impact on passengers trying to book their holiday travel.
“The good news is that the strike vote wouldn’t really affect pricing for the holidays,” Slotnick said. “The bad news is that demand would. Demand is really high. We’re seeing that a lot of people want to travel, even with fears over a recession, talk about inflation and everything. People still want to get out there. There’s still pent up demand from the pandemic. There’s still a lot of people who want to see family, who really aren’t taking these opportunities for granted anymore.”
Williams agreed that there should not be any holiday travel impacts, even at smaller airports like Kalamazoo/Battle Creek and Lansing.