United Airlines issues involuntary furloughs to more than 16,000 employees

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FILE – In this July 18, 2018, file photo a United Airlines commercial jet sits at a gate at Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. United Airlines plans to furlough about 16,000 employees in October 2020 as air travel continues to be hammered by the pandemic. That’s fewer furloughs than United predicted in July, when it warned 36,000 employees that they could lose their jobs. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

WASHINGTON (WLNS) — United Airlines issued involuntary furloughs to 16,370 employees today, Yahoo Finance reports.

The furloughs represent 16% of its workforce, including at least 2,850 pilots and 6,920 flight attendants.

In July, United Airlines announced it would send layoff warnings to 36,000 employees, which is nearly half of its U.S. staff.

United officials said in July they still hope to limit the number of layoffs by offering early retirement packages, and that the 36,000 number is a worst-case scenario. The notices sent to employees in July are meant to comply with 60-day warning requirements at large companies ahead of mass job cuts.

The July furloughs were set to include 15,000 flight attendants, 11,000 customer service and gate agents, 5,500 maintenance workers and 2,250 pilots. They would take effect on or shortly after October 1. United can’t lay off workers before then as a condition of the $5 billion in federal payroll aid it began receiving this spring.

Air travel plunged about 95% from March 1 until mid-April, then began a slow recovery. The number of U.S. air travelers around the July 4 weekend was the highest since mid-March, but was still down about 70% from a year ago. 

The havoc being wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic is hitting the job-rich aviation industry especially hard, with the International Air Transport Association predicting airlines will lose at least $84 billion in 2020. 

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