United Airlines warned staff that more than 16,000 employees could face involuntary furloughs on Oct. 1 when federal CARES Act payroll support expires. The good news? This is down from the 36,000 involuntary furloughs the carrier warned about in July.
United said employees taking voluntary separation packages and leaves of absence made up the bulk of the difference between the two numbers. The carrier remains hopeful that it will rehire employees when demand returns, but “today’s announcement…is an outcome that no one wanted.”
By far, the flight attendants will be most affected by the involuntary furloughs, with ranks trimmed by almost 7,000. United also expects to furlough as many as 1,400 management and administrative staff.
Meanwhile, Hawaiian told its employees that it could cut more than 2,000 employees on Oct. 1. Once again, the most-affected workers are flight attendants. Hawaiian said it needs to cut more than 800 flight attendant jobs, with more than 300 of those expected to be involuntary furloughs. Hawaiian also said it will reduce its pilot workforce by almost 200, including 100 involuntary furloughs.
Last week, American said it expected to cut as many as 19,000 employees on Oct. 1. Delta warned it could furlough 2,000 pilots and “tens of thousands” of other employees if more the government doesn’t provide more aid. Even Southwest, which has never had an involuntary layoff in almost 50 years, said it could be forced to make cuts if demand remains depressed through the end of the year.
United joined its peers in calling on employees to lobby Congress for an extension of the payroll support program, at least through early 2021, to avoid layoffs. Several unions, including the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), for months have been urging members to contact their members of Congress to push for more federal funds. Congress is at an impasse on a broader coronavirus relief bill, and it remains unclear if the bills being negotiated on the Hill include more funding for airlines. The White House last month made vague promises of executive action to help the airline industry, but it remains unclear what the administration can do without legislation from Congress.
AFA is organizing a march on Congress on Sept. 9 to bring attention to the airline industry’s plight.