United Airlines could furlough 36,000 employees by Oct. 1 as demand remains low

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(FOX News) – United Airlines could furlough 36,000, or 45 percent, of its U.S.-based frontline employees by Oct. 1, the company announced Wednesday.

Airlines that received government loans were forbidden from furloughing or laying off employees until Sept. 30 under the terms of a $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus stimulus package aimed at helping airlines retain staff as the pandemic crushes the travel industry.

“None of the decisions we’ve made so far have been more difficult than the decision we are announcing today,” a United official told reporters during a Wednesday press call.

Another official added that the company decided to announce the potential furloughs to employees today to allow its teams “as much time as possible” to think about the impact furloughs will have on their careers.

United estimates that furloughs could impact 11,000 airport operations employees, 15,000 flight attendants, 5,500 technical operations employees, 2,000 flight operations employees and hundreds of other workers in catering operations, contact centers and network operation centers.

The airline is offering several voluntary programs that help employees retire, explore other industries and take voluntary unpaid leave. “Tens of thousands” of employees have already stepped up to take unpaid voluntary leave, and United has already started rolling out its plan to reduce its management and administration headcount by 30 percent, the official said.

United has been anticipating potential furloughs due to “reduced demand to destinations experiencing increases in COVID-19 cases and/or new quarantine requirements or other restrictions on travel,” according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We continue to offer voluntary programs and are moving forward with our management and administrative reorganization to align our payroll expenses with overall demand,” a spokesperson for United Airlines told FOX Business in a Tuesday statement.