Delta Air Lines has been forced to defer delivery of its entire Boeing 777 fleet on order because of its failure to negotiate a pay accord with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) for the type.

Earlier this year, the airline deferred indefinitely deliveries of four 777-200s because of a lack of progress in the ALPA negotiations on pilot pay rates and work rules (Flight International, 21-27 April). The airline is replacing the twinjets with four Boeing 767-300ERs from early next year.

Delta has already taken delivery of two of the 13 Rolls-Royce Trent 800-powered 777s, but is now considering selling those aircraft, which operate services to London .

The airline says it would need to have an agreement in place by 1 August to accommodate its winter schedule with the 777s. ALPA told the airline that a tentative agreement was needed by 28 May to achieve a final pact by 1 August.

But no progress has been made since talks began in February and the parties remain far apart. Without an agreement, Delta pilots would stop flying the 777s as early as 1 November, which would ground the aircraft and could affect 83,000 passengers in the first month alone.

The airline is continuing talks with its pilots in the hope of reaching an agreement. ALPA says Delta's move was not unexpected, and accuses the airline's management of showing "little interest in reaching agreement with the pilots".

Delta says it is offering its 777 pilots an industry-leading rate, 5% above that offered by American Airlines, 25% higher than United and 26% more than Continental. Delta's current pay offer to 777 pilots is $238.66 an hour, but ALPA is asking for $318.96 an hour.

Source: Flight International