United Airlines is set to offer some of its roughly 13,100 pilots the whole month of April off on reduced pay after the Chicago headquartered airline culled schedules, especially to Asia, because of the Coronavirus crisis. United could be the worst impacted U.S. airline because of the virus, officially known as COVID-19, because it offers more service to Asia than any of its domestic rivals.
In a memo sent by Todd Insler, a United Captain and president of the United branch of the Airline Pilots Association, members were told that long-haul pilots could be offered the month of April off work. Rather than offering unpaid leave, however, United intends to offer reduced pay for those pilots who take up the offer.
On average, many pilots work around 80 block hours per month. The deal tabled by United would see them earn the equivalent of 50 block hours.
United has cut flights to Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai on the Chinese mainland until April 30 at the earliest. Services to Hong Kong have also been axed until the same date. In the last few days, United also announced a slew of service reductions to Tokyo-Narita, Osaka, Singapore and Seoul.
The airline has cited a reduction in demand because of the spreading Coronavirus outbreak. United hasn’t yet followed the lead of American Airlines by cancelling flights to Italy after the European country saw a big spike in COVID-19 cases.
Last week, United pulled its guidance for 2020 financial forecasts because of “uncertainty” of how the crisis could unfold and what impact that would have on its business. The airline also cancelled a media event, saying a “productive conversation” couldn’t happen under current circumstances.
“The reductions in block hours has resulted in lower line values and fewer flying opportunities in some fleets,” Insler wrote in the memo sent on Friday. “We are preparing for the possibility of further reductions to our schedules as the virus spreads,” he continued.
United confirmed it was talking with the union over the Coronavirus outbreak and what measures might need to be taken. According to a report on CNBC, ongoing contract negotiations between the union and United won’t be affected.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.