Delta pilots protest working conditions ahead of July 4 weekend. Will it affect travel?

Delta Air Lines pilots picketed at the carrier's hubs around the country Thursday, saying they've been working record amounts of overtime this year and are frustrated with ongoing contract negotiations.

What's happening?

Off-duty Delta pilots picketed at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, New York, Seattle-Tacoma, and Salt Lake City.

Why are Delta's pilots protesting?

First officer David Adler, one of the pilots protesting at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport said he and his colleagues have already worked more overtime this year than they did in all of 2018 and 2019 combined.

“Overtime is not a bad thing, but relying on it all the time is problematic," he said. “We’re short of pilots right now and if we get a little bit of a hiccup in the system, whether it’s due to saturation in the airspace, whether it’s due to weather or things like that, we don’t have the staff to go ahead and recoup.”

Adler emphasized, however, that Delta's passengers should continue to feel confident in the safety of air travel.

"Nobody cares about the safety of the airline, of the airplanes, of their crew members more than the Delta pilots,'' he said. "We will always operate in the most safe environment, always. If we’re not feeling well, we will not be flying the airplane."

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Will the protest affect July 4th travel?

Short answer: no. Delta says that the picketing pilots are not scheduled to fly while they're participating in the protest, and their demonstration should have no impact on flight schedules.

"Our goal remains to continue providing Delta pilots with an industry-leading overall contract with the best compensation based on pay, retirement, work rules, and profit sharing,'' Morgan Durrant, a Delta spokesperson, said in a statement. "We’re also committed to making sure the contract language supports our ability to run a world-class operation.''

But, pilots say, travelers should still be ready for issues during the holiday weekend.

“What I would recommend to the holiday travelers is this: I would say, get to the airports earlier. I would say if you’re flying through a hub, give yourself a little bit of extra time flying through that hub," Adler said.

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What about other cancellations?

Protests aside, it's been a rough summer for Delta, which has struggled as traveler demand has surged.

On Friday, Delta's CEO sent a message to the airline's frequent flyers acknowledging the issues and pledging a return to reliability.

"I know many of you may have experienced disruptions, sometimes significant, in your travels as we build our operation back from the depths of 2020 while accommodating a record level of demand," the letter said. "Things won't change overnight, but we're on a path towards a steady recovery. Steps we've taken include offering more flexibility for your travel plans and adjusting our summer schedule so that when challenges do occur, we can bounce back faster."

Delta announced a sweeping waiver for July 4 weekend that allows passengers to rebook travel without paying change fees or fare differences. And, the airline emphasized, it's working to speed up its hiring process to help smooth over some of the challenges.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Delta pilots strike by picketing at airports as July 4 travel looms