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A United 777-200 touches down in Las Vegas (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

United Airlines Pilots Agree to Avoid Furloughs

The United Airlines chapter of the Air Lines Pilot Association has announced that none of its 13,000 pilots will be furloughed on Oct. 1, the company announced. The agreement will delay any furlough in the pilot group until June 2021 at the earliest. Prior to this agreement, 2,850 pilots out of the union’s 13,000 were facing furlough on Oct. 1 when CARES Act terms are set to expire. Approximately 12,000 United employees will still face furloughs unless a new extension of the CARES Act is passed through Congress.

The agreement reached will see the available flying being spread among the pilot group. This means that there will be fewer flying hours spread among the pilots. In particular, the more junior pilots will see a greater reduction in flying than senior pilots. These junior pilots would have been the ones who would have faced furlough at the deadline. 

In addition, the agreement will also offer early retirement for pilots over 50 who have at least 10 years of experience with the company. The agreement does not affect any furloughs at United Express partners, where flights are contracted to different airlines. If an extension of the CARES Act is passed before Thursday’s deadline, the agreement will become void as the CARES Act will cover the payroll for the airline employees. Despite the agreement, both the ALPA and United Airlines are encouraging employees and the public to reach out to Congress to provide an extension. 

Pilots at United will join colleagues at JetBlue, Spirit Airlines and Alaska Airlines who will not be furloughed come Oct. 1. In addition, Southwest Airlines has agreed to avoid furloughs across the airline for the rest of the year. Across the industry, there will be approximately 35,000 total furloughs unless an agreement can be reached in Congress. This includes both in-air jobs as well as ground-based jobs. Specifically at United, 15,000 flight attendants will be furloughed. 

At other major airlines, agreements to avoid furloughs have varied. Delta Air Lines will delay furloughs until November 1 for pilots in the hope that either the CARES Act gets extended or an agreement can be reached with its pilot group. The airline has reached an agreement to avoid furloughs with its flight attendant group. American Airlines and its pilots have not announced any agreement, and as it stands 1,600 pilots are facing furloughs on Oct. 1. 

United’s agreement will provide temporary relief for the pilots at the airline. However, unless there is a significant recovery in demand, layoffs may be inevitable. Demand has recovered from its record low in early April, but passenger numbers are still at about 30% of what they were last year. Numbers have slowly been recovering, with the past Sunday posting the highest passenger counts for a non-holiday, with 873,038 passengers passing through TSA checkpoints. 

Daniel Morley
Daniel Morley
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