United Airlines Sends Out Furlough Notices

United Airlines yesterday shared that it notified some 14,000 of its staff members that they could be furloughed. This announcement comes as aviation unions renew requests for additional financial support from the government.

United Airlines Livery
United Airlines has sent a grim notice to its employees. Photo: Getty Images

Another round of support required

United cautioned that the second round of payroll support ends at the start of April. Therefore, carriers could be forced to make significant cuts as the pandemic continues to rock the aviation industry. Reuters reports that the unions have asked Congress and President Joe Biden for another $15 billion in support to keep employees on the payroll through at least September 30th.

Global restrictions amid the health crisis continue to keep passengers on the ground. It is considerably hard for potential fliers to hit the air due to the extensive measures such as ongoing travel bans and lengthy quarantines. Moreover, the overall social climate has shifted demand over the last year.

United had to make tough calls when the first payroll support package expired in the fall. However, the Chicago-based carrier recalled 13,000 members of its staff from furlough when a $15 billion airline industry package was passed in December, which protected jobs through March.

United airlines aircraft parked
Much of United’s aircraft have been on the ground over the last year. Photo: Getty Images

Demand still low

Nonetheless, United told employees that despite the ongoing efforts to distribute vaccines, passenger demand has not changed much. Altogether, it is monitoring demand and pressing for continued support from the government.

“The extended federal Payroll Support Program for airlines has allowed United to welcome back thousands of co-workers this winter, providing an important boost for them and for our airline. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve worked hard to stay ahead of the devastating impact of COVID on our business, but unfortunately, the crisis isn’t over,” part of United’s memo said, as shared by a United spokesperson.

“Despite ongoing efforts to distribute vaccines, customer demand has not changed much since we recalled those employees. When the recalls began, United said most recalled employees would return to their previous status as a result of the fall furloughs around April 1.  As such, recalled employees in states where WARN may be triggered are receiving notice about this today.”

The spokesperson noted that last July, United had to issue 36,000 WARN notices. However, by October 1st, its furlough number was down to 13,000.  The company is working once again to lower the furlough number through a number of options

Two union leaders that represent 75,000 flight attendants wrote to congressional leaders. They asked for swift action to extend the payroll support program with $15 billion to protect positions until September 30th or later. Association of Flight Attendants’ Sara Nelson and Association of Professional Flight Attendants’ Julie Hedrick added that there would be mass layoffs from April if there is no further assistance.

Airline Workers Call For Payroll Protection Program Extension
Flight attendants have been concerned about the future of their jobs ever since the start of the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images.

The challenges continue

Conditions continue to remain tough in the aviation industry. United mentioned that the vaccine rollout has not changed demand much, but it is still early days in the program.

After many additional members of the public receive the vaccine, there would be a shift in the impact of the pandemic across the board. However, the process will take time, and we may not see a notable positive outcome of the vaccine for many months. So, until then, airlines, employees, and unions will be continuing to keep their eye on the situation.

What are your thoughts about United Airlines’ furlough warnings to its employees? Do you feel that this move would be inevitable given the circumstances? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.