In yet more damage inflicted on the devastated aviation sector, the second biggest airline in the US will be cutting more than 16 000 jobs from October.
United Airlines said in a statement that the job reductions – which may be temporary ‘furloughs’ – account for around 17% of the total workforce that it had prior to COVID-19.
Ending of federal government aid package
The 1 October implementation date is timed to coincide with the ending of the US federal government’s financial aid package. However, if additional funding is forthcoming from the Trump administration, then the cuts may be delayed until around March next year.
The current aid package prohibits airlines from cutting jobs or pay until 30 September.
If staff are furloughed it means they may be recalled to duty if and when demand picks up.
Job cuts are less than first predicted
On a slightly positive note, though, the United Airlines announcement is notably less than the 36 000 jobs that it previously said may have to go as a result of the pandemic’s impact on global travel.
According to a report by CBS News, the reduced number of cuts is because 7 400 employees took buyouts or early retirement, and up to 20 000 more accepted reduced work schedules or took voluntary leaves lasting up to 13 months.
“The pandemic has drawn us in deeper and lasted longer than almost any expert predicted, and in an environment where travel demand is so depressed, United cannot continue with staffing levels that significantly exceed the schedule we fly,” the airline said in a memo to its staff.
Flight attendants take the biggest hit
“Sadly, we don’t expect demand to return to anything resembling normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine.”
The total of 16 370 jobs that United plans to cut include 6 920 flight attendants, 2 850 pilots, 1 400 management roles, 2 010 mechanics and 2 260 people working in airport operations.
A report by the US Transportation Security Administration said 516 000 passengers passed through airport checkpoints on 1 September, down by 75% from a year earlier.