American Airlines, US Airways pilots approve new contract

American Airlines’ pilots approved a new contract granting them immediate raises of 23 percent, the airline said Friday.

American merged with US Airways in December 2013, and the deal covers pilots from both carriers in their first unified contract. American employs about 1,630 pilots based at Charlotte, the airline’s second-busiest hub. In addition to the immediate 23 percent raise, pilots will receive annual raises of 3 percent for the next five years.

American employs about 15,000 pilots total, and getting a new, joint contract for American and US Airways pilots approved is a key step in merging the airlines.

“Today’s results provide immediate and significant pay increases to our pilots, and represent another step forward in our integration,” said American President Scott Kirby, in a statement. “We are especially pleased that American is in a position to support pay increases that recognize the contributions of our pilots this early in our integration.”

The pilots voted in favor of the agreement by a margin of almost 66 percent to 34 percent. Allied Pilots Association President Capt. Keith Wilson said the contract was the best the pilots could get, but they will continue working to improve their pay and working conditions.

“APA will now focus on further engagement with American Airlines management to address ongoing shortcomings in our contract,” said Wilson. “Our total compensation will still trail industry-leader Delta, while work rules affecting our pilots’ quality of life need meaningful improvement.”

Last week, American reported record earnings, with a $597 million profit for the fourth quarter. The airline’s results were powered largely by falling fuel prices, which have reduced American’s costs sharply.

American estimated this week that if approved, the pilot contract would add $600 million to its costs this year. Had pilots rejected the deal, the dispute would have gone to binding arbitration, which likely would have resulted in no increase in costs, according to the company.

The company also expects that a recent deal with flight attendants will add $200 million to 2015 costs.

The Associated Press contributed