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United Airlines' pilots accept new labor contract

United Airlines pilots protest for a new contract in downtown Chicago

(Reuters) - United Airlines' pilots have ratified a new four-year contract that includes a significant pay increase and other benefits, the union representing the pilots said on Friday.

A committee represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) reported 82% of the airline's pilots voted in favor of a new comprehensive working agreement that adds more than $10 billion of value to the existing contract.

About 97% of eligible pilots participated in the ballot.

The pilots will get a cumulative 34.5% to 40.2% increase in pay in the new four-year contract, as well as better work-life quality, sick leave, work rule and vacation improvements, and an increase to retirement benefits for United's 16,000 pilots.

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The Chicago-based carrier's shares were up 1.5% in morning trade.

Pilot shortages in the United States have been persistent and are expected to last for years after many aviators left the industry during the pandemic. Analysts at Jefferies estimate the United States has a shortage of about 10,000 pilots.

As travel rebounds, airlines are now rushing to staff up, increasing pilots' bargaining power. ALPA last year rebuffed an offer from United, forcing the airline to improve its terms.

Earlier this year, Delta Air Lines' pilots ratified a new contract that includes over $7 billion in cumulative increases in wages and benefits over four years.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Jain and Shivansh Tiwary; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)