United Eyes Extensive Furloughs


United Airlines has announced plans to furlough 16,370 of its workers due to the continued impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on airline operations. Staff likely to be affected include 6,920 flight attendants, 2,850 pilots, 2,260 airport operations personnel, 2,010 mechanics and 1,400 in management. The furloughs will be enacted as early as October, in line with the expiration of restrictions laid out in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act. United also stated that an extension of CARES Act payroll provisions would prevent involuntary furloughs at the airline.

“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,” the airlines wrote in a memo to employees. “Sadly, we don’t expect demand to return to anything resembling normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine.”

Enacted last March, the CARES Act designated $25 billion in financial assistance for passenger air carriers. To be eligible for assistance, airlines were prohibited from conducting involuntary furloughs or reducing employee pay rates and benefits until Sep. 30, 2020. As previously reported by AVweb, American and Delta have also announced plans to reduce their workforces beginning Oct. 1.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. In the past several weeks, the CEO’s and ALPA have with outstretched hands, urged Uncle Sugar for an extension of the financial aid. This to pay for employees, despite not working since early March when the epidemic appeared. Their claim is based primarily on the premise that airline employees are essential workers and should continue to be carried on the payroll.

    I think more realistically a list of essential workers goes like this.

    Farmers, ranchers and food processors. Field hands that work to gather our crops and production workers that help in providing chicken, pork and beef to the daily consumer. Truck drivers that haul the goods to our stores and grocery workers that stock and sell the essential daily products that are needed in our society. The garbage truck driver to haul the excess of our consumption away to a landfill. The utility workers that supply our daily needs for water, gas and electricity. The mailman/woman that delivers reliably in the worst of conditions, mail that may include medicine, checks and most importantly, this year’s election ballot. Although I rarely need them, let’s not forget the medical workers, police and fire protection employees that are needed for society’s welfare.

    By no means is this a complete list but one that comes readily to mind when I consider daily needs. In comparison, my last airline trip in February was to an exotic location to SCUBA dive, an activity that is by no means essential to my continued welfare. In fact, as much as I enjoy this sport, not getting on an airline for the remainder of this year and quite possibly all of next year does not present a problem at all.

    In writing this I come to realize; I was not really essential to my airline when I was furloughed in the Spring of 1980 for nearly five years and I question…what has changed?

    • What has changed is the Fed’s fiscal policy.

      It’s nicely summed up in a Joke I heard back during the “cold war”: Stalin, Khruschev and Brezhnev are sitting in a train stalled on the track in Siberia. Frustrated by the lack of progress, Stalin gets up and says “I will fix this” then stalks out. He returns proclaiming “I’ve executed the train crew. We’ll be under way shortly”…. Nothing happens. Khruschev then rises and says “I will get us under way”. He returns stating confidently “I have reinstated the train crew. We’ll be moving shortly”….. Nothing happens. Now it’s Brezhnev’s turn. He stands up, pulls down the window shade and says “Now we’re moving!”

      The Corona Virus, and our national response, executed the economy. The Federal Reserve is flooding it with trillions of dollars in liquidity to reinstate it. And leadership is telling us that things are moving spectacularly.

      To no one’s surprise, employees don’t need to be critical to the economy to enjoy the Fed’s largess. A powerful lobbying presence is all that’s required.

  2. Who would want to deal with all of the restrictions different states and the airlines have or even other countries to go on vacation. Thank goodness I vacationed in Alaska last year, I would not have gone this year with everything going on. Doesn’t matter if a vaccine is available until those travel restrictions go away, the leisure traveler is not going to return to fly somewhere. And business travelers(the ones who pay full fare)will either use Zoom, work from home, or continue (at my company in increasing numbers) to use charter to avoid the domestic and airline restrictions as much as possible. International is another story.