United plans to furlough 16,000 workers, fewer than expected
United Airlines said Wednesday it plans to furlough 16,370 employees in October, a smaller number than the airline predicted in July because thousands of workers agreed to leave with the travel industry facing a slow recovery from the pandemic.
Airline officials had outlined 36,000 potential furloughs in July. Since then, thousands of workers took early retirement, buyouts, or long-term leaves of absence.
United officials said the forced job cuts will begin Oct. 1, when a prohibition on furloughs ends. They said the furloughs would be postponed if Washington approves another $25 billion in airline aid.
Flight attendants will bear the brunt of the cuts, with 6,920 getting furlough notices. About 2,850 pilots, 2,260 airport-based employees, 2,010 maintenance workers and 1,400 management and support staff would also lose their jobs.
The figures do not include the 7,400 employees who took buyouts or early retirement. Up to 20,000 more accepted reduced work schedules or took leaves.
Most union employees in the airline industry whose jobs are cut have rehiring rights — management and administrative staff generally do not. United began the year with 96,000 employees, 84% of whom were represented by unions.
The flight attendants’ union said United’s announcement understates the job losses. The union said more than 15,000 flight attendants will leave the United payroll unless Washington approves more payroll aid for airlines, and another 3,400 who stay to keep health insurance will get no guarantee of work or income.
“Where will we go? The unemployment line,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “The situation in the airline industry is not better than July when furlough notices went out. It’s actually worse.”