Travel Crunch Prompts Incentive Pay for United Pilots

Pilots can make three times their normal rate

United Airlines check-in area
United Airlines ticketing agents confer with one another at a kiosk at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on December 27, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The increase in COVID-19 cases that has accompanied the rise of the Omicron variant has had a host of repercussions across the country and the world, from canceled sporting events to altered workplace policies. The effects of the new variant on air travel have been especially dramatic, with airlines in the U.S. canceling hundreds of flights every day over the course of recent days.

At the heart of many of those delays and cancellations are flight crews testing positive for the coronavirus. If you’re running an airline, how do you address that? Well, there’s always one time-honored method of dealing with a problem — namely, throwing money at it until it stops being an issue.

That’s the approach taken by United Airlines. NBC News reports that the airline is offering pilots triple pay over the course of the next month if they’re willing to take on additional flights.

A United official clarified a few things about the plan. “The main thing is that most pilots have room in their schedules (within the limits) to pick up extra trips, and this gives them additional compensation if they choose to do that,” they told NBC. In other words, the airline’s existing regulations governing rest periods and the total number of hours one can work remain in effect.

That’s an encouraging piece of news. This certainly seems like an appealing incentive for eligible pilots, but it’s also reassuring to hear that it won’t lead to risky behavior.


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