United Airlines to Furlough More Than 16,000 Employees

September 3, 2020

    The airline industry continues to feel the devastating impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    On Wednesday, United Airlines announced that 16,370 employees will be furloughed next month, when payroll restrictions attached to federal coronavirus aid expire, reported NBC News.

    “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 company said in a memo to staff.

    The affected workforce includes 6,920 flight attendants, 2,850 pilots, 1,400 management jobs, 2,010 mechanics and 2,260 in airport operations, among others.

    Under the CARES Act, United reportedly received $5 billion in bail out funds and payroll protection. A provision of receiving the aid was that airlines could not layoff, furlough or cut the salaries of workers until October 1.

    With that deadline approaching, and unless an extension of the payroll protection plan is implemented, the staff cuts will proceed.

    "To be clear, an extension would be the one thing that would prevent involuntary furloughs on October 1 and hopefully delay any potential impact on employees until early 2021," the staff memo continued, according to CNN.

    While the more than 16,000 furloughs are “heart-wrenching,” it’s considerably lower than the 36,000 United employees who received warning of the job cuts back in July.

    The lower number is due to thousands of employees who volunteered to take buyouts, early retirement packages and other forms of temporary leave or reduction in work schedules, noted NBC News.

    United isn’t alone as American Airlines recently disclosed it will cut 19,000 workers if federal payroll aid expires as scheduled on Oct. 1.

    Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said since the downturn due to the pandemic American had cut spending by $15 billion by reducing capacity and cutting jobs. He noted that 41,000 employees took voluntary leave or retired and another 5,100 management and support jobs were cut.

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