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A United 777-200 departs from Washington-Dulles (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ben Suskind)

United Airlines One Step Closer to Avoiding Pilot Furloughs

United Airlines has become the latest airline to make a move towards saving its pilots from furloughs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report from Reuters, the airline’s pilot union and the airline have reached a tentative agreement to prevent pilot furloughs until at least early 2021.

The news comes just weeks after the Chicago-based carrier announced that it would be furloughing nearly 3,000 pilots after payroll support funding runs out on Oct. 1. The airline has not been able to save the jobs of the 13,000 other employees still facing involuntary furloughs.

While the deal would not become official until after Sept. 21, it is a step in the right direction for the airline and its pilots. The leaders of the Air Line Pilots Association, the union that represents United Airlines pilots, voted in favor of the plan to prevent layoffs. Union members will vote on the issue starting on Sept. 21.

Part of the agreement reached by the airline and pilots was the reopening of separation packages for those wishing to leave voluntarily. The new leave packages are only eligible for pilots who are over 50 years of age and have been with the company for at least 10 years. 

Other details of the agreement include limits only flying done by regional carriers, operating for United Express. While no details were available, there are also reportedly triggers for contract modifications that would result in pay raises for United mainline pilots. 

Pilot Furloughs Across America

United would become the latest in a growing list of airlines in the United States to avoid pilot furloughs, joining the likes of Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways. Regional carrier Republic Airways has also reached an agreement with its pilots to avoid furloughs.

Other carriers have not been as lucky, however. While Delta Air Lines was able to agree to avoid furloughs to flight attendants and grounds employees, the airline was still facing pilot furloughs. The Atlanta-based carrier could see close to 2,000 pilots lose their jobs on Oct. 1, if a deal cannot be reached.

American Airlines is currently in the worst situation of the traditional-legacy carriers in the United States. The Fort Worth-based carrier is still facing the possibility of furloughing up to 20,000 employees, including over 2,000 pilots. American has been pushing lawmakers for an extension or second CARES Act to be passed to support payroll.

Jace Moseley
Jace Moseley
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