There is some very good news for flight attendants at United Airlines. The airline has informed its flight attendants that there will not be any furloughs this fall when the third round of government payroll support runs out. This represents a stark change just months after the airline last warned about furloughs. United is now clearly on the path to recovery and has decided it needs all its staff this fall and beyond.
United Airlines will not furlough crew in September
When the third round of government support runs out in September 2021, United has announced that there will be no furloughs for its flight attendants. This is excellent news just a year after many in the airline industry worried about the future of their jobs.
Now, the industry is in much better financial straits. With travelers coming back and yields starting to trend upwards, United has been busy building back its flight schedules and looking to the future. With that in mind, the airline has decided it needs all of its staff this fall.
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The power of payroll support
In March 2020, the airline industry was introduced to the government’s Payroll Support Program (PSP). Under this program, United Airlines received billions of dollars worth of support from the United States government to keep its employees on the payroll.
Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) International President, stated,
“This announcement makes it clear: the Payroll Support Program (PSP) worked. In every previous crisis where airlines took major losses, workers and passengers paid the price. Airlines cut jobs, pay and benefits for workers, while bankruptcies and consolidation meant more fees and less options for passengers.”
She further discussed how the program has helped employees in the aviation industry continue to receive a paycheck, healthcare, and benefits. Even those who did face several weeks on furlough in late 2020 were able to still receive certain benefits and maintain their seniority.
After the first round of the PSP was passed in March, the aviation industry spent a few months monitoring the crisis. Seeing the precipitous fall in bookings and passengers not willing to travel, it became clear that the industry would need more support. Airlines and their CEOs began lobbying hard for an extension to the program.
One did not come in time for furloughs to be avoided from October 1st. However, in December, the US government passed another package that extended payroll support through March and passed the third round in March that extended the program until the end of September. United warned about the potential for furloughs again without the third round of support.
With each round of PSP, airlines had to agree to maintain minimum levels of service, caps on executive compensation, temporary restrictions on stock buybacks, and restricting paying back dividends.
Looking ahead to the recovery
The recovery is materializing, and summer travel is in full swing in the United States. United Airlines is heavily focused on getting passengers back in the skies and setting the airline up for success in the future. In fact, it is even rumored that the airline is looking at a major order for jets, including the Boeing 737 MAX.
With the recovery ongoing, time will soon come when the industry can reflect on the pandemic and how airlines managed to get through it. As Nelson further stated,
“This program should serve as a model for the future. Now that we’re on our way out of the worst crisis in aviation history, we look forward to building a just recovery that respects the contributions of all the workers who keep us flying high.”
As United prepares to expand its fleet and turn the page with new investments and orders for new technology, it has said it will need all of its employees to succeed. Flight attendants are no longer at risk of losing their jobs or facing furloughs come September, which is a clear sign that the recovery is here.
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