United Airlines offers triple pay to pilots in the midst of travel chaos

United Airlines said on Friday that it will offer triple pay to pilots who pick up extra flights as bad weather and the omicron variant continue to hit the aviation industry, with thousands of flights canceled since Christmas.

An in-flight operations manager, Bryan Quigley, said in a staff note obtained by NBC News that pilots would earn three and a half times the salary for additional flights between December 30 and January 3.

They will earn triple pay for flying extra between 4 and 29 January, it says in the note.

Quigley called the offer “significant” and said the company reached an agreement with the Airline Pilots Association in an effort to “do everything we can to take care of our customers in this challenging time.”

Since December 23, United, Delta Airlines, Alaska Airlines and other airlines have canceled a total of more than 10,000 flights, CNBC reported. The companies have blamed winter weather and peaks in sick leave as the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads around the United States and the world.

On Friday, nearly 1,600 flights were canceled in and out of the United States, according to tracking site Flightaware.

In Denver, where a storm was expected to fall as much as half a foot of snow, the airport had the most cancellations in the world, with 157 from Friday afternoon.

While the temporary wage hump is in effect at United, the rest requirements for pilots will remain the same, and so will the number of hours they are allowed to work, said a company official.

The official could not give further details on what these limits are, but said: “The main thing is that most pilots have space in the schedules (within the limits) to pick up extra trips, and this gives them extra compensation if they choose to do so.”

The union did not immediately respond to a request for comment if the agreement could make their pilots dangerously exhausted.

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