Delta and its pilots ask mediator for help in contract talks

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines and its pilots want a federal mediator to step in after eight months of negotiations have failed to produce a contract agreement between the airline and the pilots’ union.

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In a statement Friday, Delta said filing for federal mediation “allows both sides to have more productive conversations” to reach an agreement more quickly.

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The chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association’s Delta group, Ryan Schnitzler, said in a message to his members that mediation might “motivate management to meaningfully engage at the table.”

Negotiations began in April. Federal law makes it difficult for airlines and unions to conduct lock-outs or strikes.

The union is seeking higher pay, better benefits and more hiring. Atlanta-based Delta relied on overtime to operate during the busy summer travel season last year.

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The negotiations are being watched at other airlines and by Wall Street, which is looking for an indication of how much a new contract will increase Delta’s expenses. Delta reported Tuesday that it earned $4.8 billion last year, bringing its profit since the start of 2010 to about $34 billion.