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Trouble in the skies

Pilots at United picket for wages as other airlines threaten to strike

Pilots for United Airlines marched in pickets lines at airports across the country on Friday, demanding higher pay as other airlines also threatened to strike. 

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing the workers, said in a press release at least 3,000 United pilots picketed at 10 major airports across the U.S. This represents the "largest non-strike rally in the history of commercial aviation," the ALPA said. 

Pilots at United have not had a pay increase in over four years, according to the ALPA, and described the ongoing contract talks as "all but stalled." United spokesperson Joshua Freed said the airline was working with the ALPA "on the industry-leading deal we have put on the table for our world-class pilots." However, the ALPA's United wing chair, Garth Thompson, told The Associated Press the two sides "still have a long ways to go to resolve some of the issues at the table."

The picket comes at a time of reckoning for the aviation industry, occurring just a day after Southwest Airlines voted to authorize a strike and weeks after American Airlines voted to do the same. Pilots at the airline are "tired of apologizing to our passengers on behalf of a company that refuses to place its priorities on its internal and external customers," Southwest Airlines Pilots Association president Casey Murray said in a statement

However, while the upcoming summer travel season could be a headache for a number of reasons, a strike is unlikely to be one of them. Aviation walkouts are extremely rare — the last one was more than a decade ago. Both sides have to follow stringent federal guidelines from the Railway Labor Act, The Washington Post reported. If negotiations were to fall apart, President Biden would likely intervene to reach a deal.