United Airlines has today revealed the extent to which it needs to right-size its workforce. Around 36,000 employees will receive a warning notice, alerting them to potential furloughs on October 1st. As expected, the layoffs will coincide with the ending of the CARES Act restrictions, potentially setting a precedent for other US airlines to follow.
Almost half the workforce to receive WARN notices
Following on from yesterday’s rumor of potential furloughs at United airlines, we now have a better idea of what the shape of this action could be. Today, it has been revealed that as many as 36,000 workers may receive a warning of impending furlough, representing around 45% of the United Airlines workforce.
The airline is preparing to hand out WARN notices, which are required under federal law 60 days in advance of any layoff or temporary furlough. United was quick to reassure staff that the receipt of a WARN didn’t mean that workers would definitely be furloughed, but that a final decision would be put in place by mid- to late-August.
During a press call, a United Airlines spokesperson said that this was a “last resort,” stating that,
“None of the decisions we’ve made so far have been more difficult than the decision we are announcing today.”
As expected, the furlough will begin with the end of the CARES Act funding, on October 1st. The airline is the first of the US big three to announce mass lay off but follows in the footsteps of other major international airlines, including British Airways and Lufthansa. American Airlines has also warned that it is looking at an excess of workers, so more announcements could well follow from other US carriers in the coming weeks.
A “gut punch”
While the numbers facing furlough are all hard to see, by far the most affected group is that of the flight attendants. Of a workforce of around 25,000, an estimated 15,000 will be receiving a warning.
In a statement carried by Reuters, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) President Sara Nelson said it was a painful message, but she felt it was honest. She said,
“The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we’ve seen on the state of the industry.
“But the fact remains that these projected furlough numbers are larger than the total size of most mainline airlines a decade ago.”
According to reports, United’s flight attendants have a choice of either being off until June 1st next year, or until November 1st, 2021. During the furlough period, workers would still be entitled to benefits.
As well as the flight attendants, tens of thousands of other workers will be worried about their jobs. Fox Business estimates that some 11,000 airport operations employees, 5,500 technical workers, and more than 2,200 pilots will also receive letters, as well as hundreds of workers in catering, admin, and contact center positions.
United Airlines is reportedly burning through $40 million a day and is struggling to reverse that trend as the US travel industry sags under the coronavirus crisis. Despite now selling all the seats on the plane and adding more flights by the day, United, like other airlines, is still dealing with low load factors and ongoing disruption from new outbreaks and subsequent travel restrictions.
Have you been affected by United Airline’s furloughs warning? Do you think other airlines will follow? Let us know in the comments.