In an internal memo, United Airlines informed flight attendants on Friday that it would close three out of four foreign crew bases. Set to be axed on October 1 are flight attendant bases in Frankfurt, Hong Kong, and Tokyo according to the United’s head of inflight services, John Slater. United’s crew base at London Heathrow airport will not be closed under current proposals.
Up to 840 flight attendants will be affected by the decision, although some will be eligible to transfer to bases in the United States. Flight attendants who don’t have the right to live in the United States are likely to be made redundant as a result of the base closures.
United Airlines has not shied away from warning staffers that extensive job losses are likely as a result of the massive drop is passenger demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there has been a slight uptick in domestic air demand in recent weeks, demand for international flights may take several years at least to recover to pre-Corona levels.
Having received $5 billion in CARES Act funding, United Airlines is banned from reducing its employee headcount until October 1. The three foreign crew bases are set to be closed at the earliest opportunity permitted under CARES act regulations and the decision was announced with just the 90 day notice period required in the flight attendant contract.
“Today, the company made an announcement that will impact our entire Flight Attendant community,” the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) told its members on Friday. “This announcement is a shock for all of us and it will create tremendous uncertainty.”
The union said the airline’s decision not to open up transfer opportunities for its base in London was a “serious concern” and that it would raise a dispute over the matter.
In an earlier communique, the union had called on U.S.-based flight attendants to show solidarity with their coworkers based in foreign domiciles after some suggested they should be the first to be laid off.
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.