United Airlines is preparing for the biggest pilot furloughs in its history after announcing the need to cut 2,850 pilot jobs this year, or approximately 21% of the total number of pilots that are employed by the airline, without further US government aid.
Airlines, reeling from the devastating impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on air travel, have asked the US government for another $25 billion to cover employee payrolls through March.
The first tranche, which banned any job cuts until October 1, expires at the end of September, but talks in Washington have stalled as Congress has struggled to reach agreement on a broader coronavirus assistance package.
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United's planned cuts, which were revealed in a memo to employees and shared with the media, would run between October 1 and November 30.
Facing a shrinking industry in the years ahead, airlines have generally tried to mitigate the number of forced job cuts by offering early retirement or voluntary departure deals, but some carriers' packages have been more attractive than others.
"While other airlines have chosen to reduce manpower through voluntary means, it is tragic that United has limited those options for our pilots and instead has chosen to furlough more pilots than ever before in our history," the union representing United's 13,000 pilots said in a statement.
United said that the numbers are based on current travel demand for the remainder of the year and its anticipated flying schedule, which it said "continues to be fluid with the resurgence of COVID-19 in regions across the US."
Chicago-based United is more exposed than its peers to international travel, which is expected to take longer to rebound from the pandemic.
No Final Furlough Numbers For Other Work Groups
United, which has warned that 36,000 jobs are on the line across the company, has not yet provided final furlough numbers for other work groups.