United Airlines Delays Pilot Furloughs Until November

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Chicago based United Airlines has reached an agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) to avert an imminent involuntary furlough threat affecting nearly 3,000 pilots. United Airlines management has agreed to delay any pilot furloughs until October 31, giving the pilots and their union some breathing space.

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United has pushed back involuntry pilot furloughs until the start of November. Photo: Denver Airport Newsroom

“This agreement underscores our commitment to all 13,000 United pilots and represents the importance of creative solutions needed to mitigate massive layoffs for our pilots,” said United pilot union Chairman Captain Todd Insler in a statement provided by ALPA.

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The proposed deal provides some breathing space for United’s pilots

There is a catch. There will be no pay for the pilots facing involuntary furlough for the remainder of September and throughout October. But there’s a deal on the table, and if both United Airlines and the pilots union can agree on terms, involuntary furloughs will be avoided for a further nine months.

ALPA represents around 13,000 United pilots. Two thousand eight hundred fifty of those pilots were facing an imminent involuntary furlough threat. United sent them a WARN notice in late August. ALPA has proposed a deal that includes the following;

  • Preventing pilot furloughs until June 2021;
  • Offering a second round of early separation options for all pilots age 50+ with ten years experience;
  • Adding restrictions on express carrier flying; and
  • Securing triggers for a pay raise and additional permanent contract modifications that improve
    work conditions for all United pilots.

“Through past bankruptcies, mergers, strikes, 9/11 and other adverse events affecting this airline, United pilots have always taken care of each other,” said Captain Insler.

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“This is our union and our responsibility to take care of each other to ensure there is a temporary lifeline to keep all of our pilots at United flying.”

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The deal proposed will give United’s pilots some breathing space. Photo: Denver Airport Newsroom

If deal accepted, pilot jobs safe for nine months

United’s pilots need to vote on the deal. However, both airline management and the union are optimistic it will get ratified. ALPA has recommended its members accept the deal.

“Our pilots are voting right now on a tentative agreement that, if approved, would avoid all pilot furloughs for at least nine months,” a United Airlines spokesperson told Reuters yesterday.

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United Airlines is flying just 34% of its usual network-wide capacity this month. Next month, that figure should increase slightly to 40%. To date, payroll funding via the CARES Act has safeguarded jobs, but funding is due to expire shortly.

The airline industry has actively campaigned for an extension to CARES Act funding. So far, this has fallen on deaf ears. Without an extension of funding, mass lay-offs are anticipated across the airline industry. United Airlines has suggested it may need to lay off 36,000 employees.

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United Airlines expects to operate at about 40% of its usual capacity this October. Photo: Denver Airport Newsroom

“The pandemic has drawn us in deeper and lasted longer than almost any expert predicted, and in an environment where travel demand is so depressed, United cannot continue with staffing levels that significantly exceed the schedule we fly,” United Airlines said in a memo sent to employees.

That’s had unions scrambling to secure deals, and today’s example suggests compromises are getting made by all parties. A similar agreement was reached just days ago between Delta Air Lines and their pilots’ union. The interim deal with Delta expires on November 1, just a day after the proposed deal with United Airlines.

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