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United Airlines furloughing up to a whopping 45 percent of its employees!

United issues WARN-letters to affected employees

United Airlines (UAL) has announced that a massive 45 percent of its employees or 36,000 of its U.S. workforce may be furloughed starting October 1st! The information came to light during a reporter conference call.

The fast-growing uptick in U.S. COVID-cases, people scared of flying with the virus-risk and constantly changing international travel-restrictions have airlines scared.

This in spite of the CARES Act, the $25 billion air carrier loans and employee protections expiring on September 30th. The CARES Act was designed to try to help airlines through the COVID cash-crunch. The Act was also designed to prevent airlines from furloughing employees until October 1st of 2020.

united airlines employee layoffs covid-19
United B757 jet tail. Anita B for CaptainJetson.com.

United Employee layoffs by employee groups

Initial furlough notices should affect about 11,000 airport staffers, 15,000 flight attendants, 2,250 pilots, and 5,500 airplane mechanic positions.

United pilot furloughs: WARN letters

Today, United Airlines sent Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) letters to 2,250 United pilots. The airline anticipates that these pilots could be furloughed on or after October 1.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) is a federal statute that provides protection to workers and their families. WARN requires employers to provide 60 days’ notice in advance of certain involuntary actions, including potential plant closings and mass layoffs. Some states also have their own state-specific WARN statutes. Generally, these statutes have specific thresholds that require companies to provide written notifications to employees if they have a reasonable expectation that they may be affected by an employment loss in certain locations based on information available at the time.  

Furloughs will happen in the pilots’ reverse seniority order. The last pilot who was hired (date of hire) will be the first one to get furloughed.

United said has made this decision due to the drastic reduction in flying that has occurred in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

united airlines employee furloughing, United jet taxi for takeoff ORD.
United taxiing for takeoff in Chicago (ORD). Fred P for CaptainJetson.com.

How many pilots does United Airlines have?

United Airlines has 13,047 pilots on its pilot seniority list, as of July 1, 2020. 2,250 of the pilots most junior on the seniority list could be furloughed, starting on October 1st.

United pilot furlough dates

  • The WARN-letters issued to United pilots today announced that the first group of pilots could be furloughed on October 1.
  • The remaining group of pilots could be furloughed at the rate of 250 pilots a month after that.

That should conclude the first round of furloughs for United pilots, with further furloughs possible, depending on the COVID-19 situation.

United’s MEC Chairman Captain Todd Insler’s message to the ALPA pilots at the airline on June 8, 2020. YouTube.

United Airlines management comments

One United executive explained that this is the worst crisis to (ever) hit the airline industry and United Airlines. He pointed out that United cannot count on additional government support to survive.

The executive continued, saying,

The truth is none of the decisions so far have been more difficult than the decision we are announcing today. Involuntary furloughs that we worked so hard to avoid are the last option left.”

United is burning through $40 billion of expenses every day, even after cutting its schedule down to 20% of normal capacity.

United Airlines employee furloughing mitigation strategy

3,700 employees at United Airlines have already accepted early-out options. Employee groups are still feverishly trying to mitigate some of the furlough numbers by coming up with further early-out options.

Painful for the United leadership and employees alike, the airline is still attempting to decrease the impact of the layoffs. The airline continues to negotiate with all five labor unions to encourage a voluntary retirement program, along with other ideas.

However, the dire outlook leaves United with few other options.

What do you think about United Airlines’ decision to furloughing such a possibly large number of employees? Let us know here.

Featured Image: United jet at LA. Anita B for CaptainJetson.com

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