United plans to layoff one third of pilots

Editorial

United Airlines is planning to layoff at least one third of its pilots as the crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll.

Bryan Quigley, senior vice-president of flight operations for United Airlines, wrote in a letter to the airline’s Chicago-based pilots that the number of pilots United expects to layoff is now at least 3,900. The airline was previously thinking of laying off 2250 pilots. This number was based on a “more-optimistic outlook that we were seeing prior to the Fourth of July holiday and only represented the number of pilots that could potentially be furloughed in 2020”.

United does not expect customer demand to reach 50 percent of 2019 levels until a vaccine is widely available. “If 50% seems pessimistic to you, consider that even to get to that 50% level, revenue demand has to increase by about four times compared to where it is now,” Quigley says.

“The total number of pilots that we have developed furlough plans for is about 3,900, or roughly one third of our pilots,” Quigley says. Even this number may perhaps not be enough for the airline to survive the crisis it is currently in. “Although some furloughs can be reduced by existing mitigation programmes and early-out options, many more thousands of pilots are now at risk because demand has not recovered,” writes Todd Insler, president of United’s Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).
ALPA earlier this month already agreed to voluntary layoff and leave-of-absence programmes for pilots, alongside early retirement options.

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