United Airlines Avoids Pilot Furloughs Until Next Summer

United Airlines’ pilots agreed to a deal on Monday that will keep 2,800 of them employed should the United States Congress fail to extend a paycheck support program created as a part of the CARES Act. The pilot’s agreement will allow the Chicago-based airline to reduce its number of employees being furloughed to less than 12,000, should Congress fail to extend payroll support.

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United Airlines pilots have agreed to work fewer hours to save their jobs. Photo: Getty Images

According to the Washington Post, United Airlines employs 79,000 people and has already received $5 billion in government support since President Trump signed the act in March.

“Our members understood that in order to protect pilot jobs, we needed to approve this agreement,” said Capt. Todd Insler, chairman of the United Air Line Pilots Association master executive council. “I am proud of our pilots for showing the unity and resolve needed in the face of uncertainty.”

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Pilots will work fewer hours

Under the new agreement, pilots will work fewer hours and make less money, but it ensures that they will all keep their jobs, said Isler. Without the deal, around 2,800 pilots would have been furloughed this year, and another 1,100 would have risked losing their jobs in 2021.

If Congress fails to act by Thursday, more than 33,000 front line workers will lose their jobs, despite their best efforts to convince Congress to extend the financial aid until March. While there is widespread support amongst the lawmakers to aid the airline industry, further negotiations are stuck on whether it should be tied to a larger aid package or a stand-alone deal.

Some pilots can retire early

The pilot’s agreement signed by their union and the airline prevents any pilot from being laid-off until June of 2021. Pilots over 50 who have worked for more than ten years will also have the opportunity to retire early. More than 1,600 pilots at American Airlines face the prospect of being furloughed on October 1 while over at Delta Air Lines, its pilots reached an agreement to keep them in work until November 1.

American Airlines boss Doug Parker says the industry needs help. Photo: American Airlines

While speaking on the popular Sunday CBS news program “Face the Nation,” American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said that airlines needed the aid to ensure they are well-positioned to increase flights once the public returns to the skies in larger numbers. He said,

“Once we furlough those employees, it’s really hard, for example, to get pilots back in training. So once we’ve furloughed and shrunk airlines, our ability to continue to provide services needed to pull the economy back out of this is going to be severely hampered.”

October 1 is the deadline

Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a revised $2.2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package that includes a $1,200 check and $500 for each dependent. The package also includes reintroducing a $600 per week unemployment check for Americans out of work and further aid for states and cities. The proposal also approves money for airline works to ensure they keep their jobs past the October 1 deadline.

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United Airlines pilots are safe until next summer, even without government aid. Photo: Getty Images

So it would appear that a bill is on the table to help keep airline employees working; the only question now is whether House Republicans can agree to it before Thursday. Many complained that the $600 per week unemployment benefit stopped low paid workers from returning to work as it was more money than they earned in wages. This makes me think that it is going to be a hard sell unless some changes are made.

What do you think about the support the airline industry is getting? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.