United and Spirit announce wage increases amid Omicron workforce shortage
- United and Spirit have both announced wage incentives in an attempt to alleviate labor shortages.
- United pilots are entitled to triple compensation for additional unmanned flights they take until January 29.
- Spirit flight attendants will receive double pay for shifts performed through January 4.
After a chaotic vacation week plagued by massive cancellations and delays, some airlines are turning to temporary wage increases in an attempt to incentivize workers and alleviate labor shortages.
United Airlines and Spirit Airlines both announced salary increases for some staff on Friday, which include tripling the salaries of United pilots who take extra flights through January 29 and doubling the salaries of Spirit flight attendants. for shifts until January 4.
The policies come into effect as the airline industry struggles to fill staff shortages caused by the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which has caused more than 20,000 flight cancellations since Christmas Eve, according to the FlightAware flight tracking service.
The incentives also follow a significant increase in verbal and physical assaults on airline staff in recent months. Federal Aviation Association reported a total of 5,779 incidents involving unruly passengers, the majority of which involved disagreements over mask requirements, according to data available through December 21, 2021.
Bryan Quigley, United’s senior vice president for flight operations, briefed pilots on the triple pay opportunity in a memo released Friday. In the letter, which was obtained by Insider, Quigley said the incentive was developed in tandem with the Air Line Pilots Association and will apply to workers who undertake unmanned trips until January 29.
“Thank you all for your hard work and professionalism this holiday season,” Quigley wrote in the memo. “We continue to do everything possible to take care of our customers during this difficult time and today I am happy to share an important update: We have been working with ALPA to provide additional compensation to pilots.”
Spirit Airlines employees were also made aware of the pay incentives on Friday through their union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which announced that all flight attendants would be eligible for double pay until January 4. .
“All flight attendants, regardless of how you secured your match, will receive 200% pay for any match that affects Dec. 28 through Jan. 4,” AFA-CWA said in a statement.
As of Saturday afternoon, there were more than 2,400 flight cancellations and nearly 2,000 delays, according to FlightAware. Many airlines have already proactively canceled flights throughout the month in anticipation of a staff shortage, including JetBlue, which also announced that it would allow customers to change or cancel flights for free until ‘in mid-January.