The Air Line Pilots Association unit for United Airlines has notified its members that it has reached an agreement with the company to avoid any pilot furloughs until June 2021 and to return pilots to their pre-pandemic seats. In a letter to member pilots, United Master Executive Council chairman Todd Insler said, “United pilots have shown that by representing all pilots fairly and equitably, from the most junior to the most senior, we can improve our contract even in the midst of an economic downturn.”
The announcement came as a surprise since government financial support under the CARES Act is due to expire shortly and Congress has remained deadlocked on additional aid. As airline passenger volume lingers at barely a third of pre-pandemic levels a year ago, some in the industry had predicted widespread furloughs. Several thousand pilots have already taken early retirement, including 2000 at Delta and about 17,000 total employee buyouts at Southwest.
According to Insler’s bulletin, the deal cancels some 2800 seat displacements for United pilots and promises no furloughs through June 2021 and December 2021 if United declines further CARES loans. It also offers pay rate protection and a potential profit-sharing pay raise. The airline also committed to not invoking a force majeure clause during the course of the current agreement. Force majeures allow departure from contract terms in the event of unforeseen events, such as natural disasters.