This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
Up to 36,000 United Airlines employees—roughly a third of the U.S. carrier’s global workforce—face possible involuntary furlough starting October 1 as management attempts to avoid financial ruin amid the continuing Covid-19 crisis. United informed its employees in a notice sent on Wednesday. The furlough warnings apply to 15,100 flight attendants, 2,250 pilots, 5,500 mechanics, and some 11,000 airport operations employees.
United said it cannot continue at its current payroll level in such a depressed travel demand environment and called the move “a last resort.” Airlines that accepted funds under the payroll provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act may not lay off employees until October 1.
In a letter to United’s pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association’s Master Executive Council reported that it has “intensely focused” on securing a so-called early-out package that will mitigate furloughs by encouraging pilots to retire early. It also said it has begun finalizing provisions for voluntary furloughs and company-offered leaves of absences (COLAs) for pilots willing to temporarily step back from active flying.
“None of the pilots notified today of their anticipated furlough are in this situation because of any action or decision on their part,” wrote United ALPA MEC chairman Todd Insler. “With different luck, timing, or circumstances, it could be any one of us.”
Association of Flight Attendants MEC president Ken Diaz called the number of job reductions sought by United “overreaching, excessive, and punitive” and not commensurate with the company’s other employee groups or with other airlines’ planned measures.
“I want you to remember, we will uncover every stone, give every contractually compliant option, and work diligently with management to find solutions,” wrote Diaz. “We will reduce this number and we will not rest until we have done every single thing in our power to avoid even one involuntary furlough.”