United To Furlough More Than 16,000 Employees

 - September 2, 2020, 2:16 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

United Airlines will furlough 16,370 employees starting on October 1 upon the expiration of the Payroll Support Program the U.S. government instituted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the airline said on Wednesday.

United management notified employees of its intentions in a memo that outlined a breakdown of the effects on various employee groups. Inflight services, which includes flight attendants, will see the most severe cuts with the loss of 6,920 jobs. Flight operations, which employs pilots, will see the loss of 2,850 jobs, while airport and technical operations lose 2,260 and 2,010, respectively. United plans to furlough some 1,400 managers and administrative personnel, 430 contact center employees, 320 catering operations workers, and 180 network operations personnel.  

The airline noted that an extension of the Payroll Support Program, which upon passage of the CARES Act prohibited employee cuts until its expiration on September 30, would allow it to avoid furloughs on October 1 and delay any further job losses until the first quarter of next year.

“The pandemic has drawn us in deeper and lasted longer than almost any expert predicted, and in an environment where travel demand is so depressed, United cannot continue with staffing levels that significantly exceed the schedule we fly,” said the memo. “Sadly, we don’t expect demand to return to anything resembling normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine.”

On July 8, the airline sent Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notices indicating the possible furlough of 36,000 employees on October 1, but what it called the use of “creative” voluntary options helped limit the number to just over 16,000. United added it would continue to explore other voluntary options for the future.