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  • The announcement of major layoffs at United Airlines follows layoff warnings from American Airlines and Delta Airlines, all amid a prolonged industry downturn due to the novel coronavirus. pandemic.

    The announcement of major layoffs at United Airlines follows layoff warnings from American Airlines and Delta Airlines, all amid a prolonged industry downturn due to the novel coronavirus. pandemic. | Photo: Twitter/@AFP

Published 2 September 2020
Opinion

Despite having over 90,000 employees at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the Chicago-based airline plans to furlough 2,850 pilots, 6,920 flight attendants, 2,010 mechanics and 1,400 management and administrative positions, among others. 

Although some 7,400 employees have opted for early retirement or departure packages, and the company is working with other voluntary temporary leave programs to reduce the number of layoffs. The decision comes after a major announcement in July warning that 36,000 jobs were at risk for involuntary furloughs as demand remained weak.

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Collectively, U.S. airlines are losing around $5 billion a month, as 30% of planes remain parked, and passenger travel demand is down by 70%. On average, planes that are flying are half-full, and United's schedule is 63% smaller than a year ago.

Despite receiving a $25 billion bailout from the U.S. government in March to protect positions through September, the airline industry, along with unions, claim that no travel recovery is in sight, and thus have lobbied Congress for another $25 billion in assistance. Talks have stalled as Congress has failed to reach an agreement about a broader coronavirus relief package.

Rivals American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have recently announced plans to lay off 19,000 workers and 2,000 pilots, respectively, if a new federal aid package is not released. For American, that means a 30% workforce reduction, and for Delta, potential layoffs of flight attendants and mechanics are not even included in that figure.
 
While Congress approved another $25 billion in loans for the airline industry under the first stimulus package, not all airlines have tapped the funds; similarly, President Trump has committed ongoing aid for the industry but has not given any further details. 
 

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