United Airlines has confirmed plans to furlough or lay-off 16,000 employees on October 1 once a federal payroll support program finishes. The worst affected department is in-flight services with 6,920 flight attendants set to be involuntarily and indefinitely furloughed at the end of this month. Around 1,400 management and administrative employees will be made permanently redundant.
The lay-offs are significantly lower than first feared after United sent furlough warning notices to 36,000 staffers in July. The Chicago-based airline said on Wednesday that participation in voluntary programs like early-outs and extended periods of unpaid leave had helped the airline mitigate over half of the planned involuntary furloughs.
“In our plan to offset the impact of COVID-19 on our operation, involuntary furloughs were always a last resort,” the airline told employees in an internal memo.
United said new and “creative” voluntary options negotiated with unions over the last few weeks had helped to save more jobs. The airline is continuing to explore other voluntary options that may reduce the number of involuntary furloughs still further.
“Unfortunately, all of our efforts so far to cut costs, raise debt and introduce voluntary options have not been enough to avoid involuntary furloughs entirely,” the memo continued.
The lay-off’s will effect the following departments:
- Airport operations – 2,260
- Catering operations – 320
- Contact centers – 430
- Flight operations – 2,850
- Inflight services – 6,920
- Management and administrative – 1,400
- Network operations center – 180
- Technical operations – 2,010
Aviation workers will be marching in Washington DC on Wednesday in an attempt to convince lawmakers to extend a federal payroll support program for a further six months. United received $5 billion through the program in April in order to avoid involuntary furloughs.
While there is bipartisan support for a six-month extension to the PSP, lawmakers have failed to reach agreement on a broader relief bill that the program is tied up in. Without CARES Act 2 being passed, involuntary furloughs can’t be avoided.
Last week, American said 19,000 of its employees would be involuntarily furloughed once the program finishes.
So far, nearly 40,000 aviation workers will be furloughed come October 1 – a number that is set to increase in the coming days and weeks as more airlines finalize workforce planning.
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.