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United to cull over 16,000 jobs

written by Hannah Dowling | September 3, 2020

An artist's impression of an Airbus A350-900 in United livery. (Airbus)
An artist’s impression of an Airbus A350-900 in United livery. (Airbus)

United Airlines, the second biggest airline in the US, has said it will be cutting more than 16,000 jobs in October, as US federal wage subsidies dry up on 30 September.

It is understood United’s planned involuntary cuts of 16,370 jobs include 6,920 flight attendants, 2,850 pilots, 1,400 management jobs, 2,010 mechanics and 2,260 roles in airport operations, among others.

The airline said the cuts account for roughly 17 per cent of its overall pre-COVID workforce figures.

“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 a note sent to employees.

“Sadly, we don’t expect demand to return to anything resembling normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine.”

United CEO Scott Kirby previously said he expected travel demand to plateau at just half of its 2019 levels, until a COVID-19 vaccine or cure can be found.

Notably, at 16,000 losses, the final figure is significantly lower than the airline’s previous estimations recorded earlier this year, in which it said it may need to cut up to 36,000 positions.

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United also noted that should the US federal aid package be renewed, it may be able to stave off job losses until the end of March 2021.

The news comes following that of American Airlines, the largest carrier in the US, which announced it intends to cut 19,000 positions, or 30 per cent of its total workforce, following the end of the government’s aid package.

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