The second biggest airline in the US will be cutting more than 16,000 jobs from next month, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.
United Airlines said the cuts will represent close to 17 per cent of the airline’s staffing levels at the end of 2019.
In a positive take, however, the count is significantly fewer than the 36,000 figure the carrier had warned could occur earlier this year.
The airline said the staff changes would likely come into place on October 1, when the federal government’s financial aid comes to an end. It is understood, however, that should an additional $25 billion be added to the package to preserve jobs, the cuts may be delayed until the end of March 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit America hard with the virus infecting more than 6.1 million people and killing over 186,000 in the US.
The US government outlined a financial allotment for airlines at the beginning of the pandemic. It was part of the $US2.2 trillion ($A3 trillion) coronavirus relief package, which prohibits airlines from cutting jobs or pay rates until September 30.
United’s announcement comes after American Airlines last week said it plans to cut 19,000 jobs. With voluntary leaves of absence and buyouts included, the largest airline in the US will end up being 30 per cent smaller than before the pandemic – unless it gets more federal aid.
According to CNBC, Delta Air Lines plans to stand down 1941 of its pilots in October unless it can reach an agreement with the union to lower costs.
It is understood United’s planned involuntary cuts of 16,370 jobs include 6920 flight attendants, 2850 pilots, 1400 management jobs, 2010 mechanics and 2260 in airport operations, among others. Many of the positions will be furloughs meaning the staff could be recalled if demand picks up.
“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,” the airline said in an employee memo.
United employed 96,000 people at the end of 2019, but the airline’s CEO Scott Kirby has said previously he expects a demand to plateau at half of 2019 levels without a coronavirus vaccine.
According to the Financial Times, the US Transportation Security Administration said 516,000 passengers passed through checkpoints on September 1, down 75 per cent from a year earlier.
“In an environment where travel demand is so depressed, United cannot continue with staffing levels that significantly exceed the schedule we fly,” United said in the staff memo.
“Sadly, we don’t expect demand to return to anything resembling normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine.”