Strike Vote Puts Delta in Limbo

With Delta Air Line pilots threatening to strike, local travel agents say they are advising clients to book flights on other carriers if possible. "Right now, we're steering away from Delta," Oz Travel owner Janet Hibbs said Wednesday.

"If they have to go on Delta, that's one thing. If they have choices, we're going to put them on something else until they get things leveled out a little bit."

Should pilots strike, other airlines likely would honor Delta tickets, she said.

Delta's pilots voted Tuesday to authorize a strike. On Wednesday, union leaders gave their chairman, Lee Moak, the sole right to call a strike any time after April 17, rather than having to get the permission of the board.

Delta spokesman Bruce Hicks said the strike authorization will not affect service. He said Delta -- which is operating under bankruptcy protection -- remains focused on reaching an agreement with its pilots on a new contract.

Should pilots decide to strike, Delta would seek a court injunction barring a work stoppage, Hicks said.

Delta pilots are angry over management's efforts to throw out their contract and impose deep pay cuts. Delta's management says it needs the pay concessions to emerge from bankruptcy. It said a strike would put the airline out of business.

An arbitration panel has until April 15 to decide whether to void the pilots' contract.

Delta's pilots previously agreed to $1 billion in annual concessions, including a 32.5 percent wage cut, in a five-year deal in 2004. But Delta, which has imposed pay cuts on other employees, said it needs more from its pilots after filing for bankruptcy protection in September.

"We can't restructure in bankruptcy without a pilot agreement," said Hicks, the Delta spokesman. "Lenders would never support a company without a resolved pilot contract."

Delta operates four daily flights from Wichita to Atlanta.

But the service is operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines and flown by ASA -- not Delta -- pilots. Atlantic Southeast pilots work under a collective bargaining agreement separate from Delta.

ASA has "no plans for any disruptions," said Atlantic Southeast spokesman Sam Watts.

"I wouldn't expect a Delta decision would impact our pilots in any way, shape or form that would preclude them from flying," he said.

While service from Wichita may not be disrupted, travelers could have trouble with connecting flights on Delta if pilots went on strike.

Regency Travel owner Cheryl Warner said Delta pilots "would be shooting themselves in the foot if they strike."

With the bankruptcy protection filing and now a strike threat, Delta has "been shaky, to say the least," Warner said.

Warner is advising passengers holding Delta tickets to buy traveler's insurance. That way if the airline goes under "it would allow them to get their money back," Warner said.

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