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United Finalizes Furloughs After CARES Act Funding Ends

United Finalizes Furloughs After CARES Act Funding Ends
Joe Cortez

Over 16,000 United employees are facing an involuntary exit from the carrier, including over 6,900 flight attendants and 2,850 flight operations employees. The announcement comes roughly one month before Payroll Support Program funds from the CARES Act come to an end, leaving United with no other options to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

United Airlines will be reducing their numbers by over 16,000 employees, once the Payroll Support Program funds from the CARES Act comes to an end. In a memo published online by CBS News, United confirms they will release 16,370 employees, with the biggest hits coming to their flight attendant and flight operations corps.

“Involuntary Furloughs Were Always a Last Resort”

In the now-public memo, United says the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt not only their business, but the entire travel industry. Although furloughs were not the preferred option, the airline now says they have no choice but to trim their employment numbers

“In our plan to offset the impact of COVID-19 on our operation, involuntary furloughs were always a last resort,” the airline writes in their memo. “That’s why, even when we issued 36,000 WARN notices on July 8, we said we would do everything in our power to decrease that number,” through voluntary leave options.

Of the groups who will be affected the most by the furloughs, 6,920 members of the inflight services team, which includes flight attendants, will be let go. In flight operations, 2,850 employees will involuntarily leave the airline, while 2,260 airport operations employees will leave the carrier. The furloughs will also reach the Willis Tower, as 1,400 management and administrative employees will have their jobs eliminated.

A complete breakdown of employees who face involuntary furloughs Courtesy: United Airlines via CBS News

In addition to the announced furloughs, United is also offering “creative voluntary options” for certain unionized employees in the company. The airline says participation in the programs could help save jobs for other workers, but will continue to look for options to offer voluntary leave and allow employees to keep their jobs.

United Becomes Third Legacy Carrier to Confirm Labor Reductions

With their memo, United is the third legacy carrier who will reduce their workforce after the Payroll Support Program funding comes to an end. In August 2020, American Airlines announced they would furlough 17,500 employees, while Delta Air Lines said they were planning to cut a number of pilots from their ranks. In addition, Oscar Munoz, executive chairman at United, told CNN airlines could be forced to cut payroll costs by up to 50 percent to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We used to make a decent amount of money for an airline just a few months ago,” Munoz said in the interview. “We tell our employees that we are going to be a smaller airline for some time and we hope to get back to the place where we were. But we think that’s quite a bit a ways out.”

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