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A United Airlines Boeing 737-800 taxiing out for a flight at West Palm Beach Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

United Airlines Announces 16,000 Furloughs

United Airlines has become the latest airline to announce mass layoffs as it suffers from major financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the airline has received payroll support from the CARES Act, the funding expires on Sept. 30, unless Congress can pass a second support bill.

In July, the Chicago-based airline issued 36,000 WARN notices to employees — legally-mandated letters to employees that may be furloughed or laid off — while also asking for participation in a voluntary leave program in an attempt to lower the number of involuntary furloughs. While the voluntary program had some success, the carrier announced that it would carry out over 16,000 involuntary furloughs.

Of the 16,000 furloughs, 2,850 are pilots with another 6,920 being flight attendants. On top of flight crews and flight attendants, 2,010 technicians and 2,260 airport operations agents will also lose jobs. Management and administrative positions also represent a significant number of jobs being cut, with 1,400 involuntary furloughs. Catering, contact centers and network operations center account for the remaining job losses. Involuntary furlough numbers for those respective departments are 320, 430 and 180 jobs.

In a letter to employees obtained by AirlineGeeks, the airline stated that “unfortunately, all of our efforts so far to cut costs, raise debt and introduce voluntary options have not been enough to avoid involuntary furloughs entirely.”

Other Airline Furloughs

United Airlines is not the only airline that was unable to avoid involuntary furloughs. However, of all the major U.S. based airlines, United will be letting go of the most pilots involuntarily. American Airlines announced that about 2,500 pilots would be furloughed, with Delta announcing that it would be furloughing 1,941 pilots.

News of airline furloughs across the country has come out piecemeal over the past few weeks. However, there is still hope that some could yet be avoided. There is now pressure from unions that represent different departments of airlines for the U.S. government to pass another payroll support bill. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the world’s largest pilot union, has been a major proponent for a second support bill. The ALPA website even includes a link to send a message to members of Congress showing support for a second bill.

United Lists International Jobs

United has also been the target of some criticism following there were jobs posted recently but in India. The carrier has been moving some jobs to India over the past few years, but the timing of this listing opened some eyes. While the outsourcing of jobs to cut costs is not a new phenomenon, many on social media were not happy given the current situation with regards to furloughs and the push for more government support.

The airline has since removed the listings from their career website and claimed they were posted in an error.

Jace Moseley
Jace Moseley
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