United Airlines pilots picket outside Houston's Bush Airport ahead of summer travel season

Hundreds of United Airlines pilots picketed outside Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) on Friday as part of a nationwide protest for new contracts.

At least 2,000 United pilots were expected to picket Friday at 10 major airports across the country.

"It’s important because we’re in a really slow pace of the negotiation," said United Capt. Michael Wilson. "It doesn’t seem the contract is really progressing at a pace acceptable to these pilots."

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The picketing pilots Friday wore their full uniforms and held signs demanding new contracts. Pilots say they’re wanting increased pay and better work-life balance with schedules. 

In March, Delta Airlines agreed to increase their pilot’s pay by 34 percent over four years. United has told its pilots they’re willing to match Delta’s pay increase, but union officials are looking for more.  According to Wilson, they’re hoping for a scheduling system that would make it harder for management to have them work on scheduled days off.

"All of these airlines are competing for the same pool of applicants," said Wilson. "We think we would get the pool applicants with the best contract. Clearly, people want to go where the working conditions are the best."

Pilots for Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have also recently expressed their frustration with contracts. Pilots for Southwest and American recently authorized a strike demanding better conditions from their management.  However, experts say an actual strike that affects travelers is unlikely.

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"Their contracts just expired, they either hadn’t been renewed right away, or things were postponed by the pandemic," said David Slotnick, an aviation reporter from The Points Guy. "If you have anywhere crucial to be, get there early. Maybe leave a bit of a buffer. If you’re flying to catch a cruise or something, don’t fly in two hours before. Give yourself a day or so."


"United pilots are always at the table ready to negotiate to get the deal complete," said Wilson.

A spokesperson from United Airlines provided the written statement below regarding their pilots' picketing for new contracts.

"We’re continuing to work with the Air Line Pilots Association on the industry-leading deal we have put on the table for our world-class pilots," said a spokesperson from United Airlines.  "All United flights will operate as planned while our pilots exercise their right to distribute information and picket while off-duty."