A United Airlines Boeing 737-800 and a United Airlines A320 Airbus approaching San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco.
Louis Ribbon | Reuters
According to United Airlines, the jobs of around 14,000 employees will be at risk if a second round of federal aid expires this spring. This is the latest sign of the industry struggling to regain a foothold in the coronavirus pandemic.
Companies are legally obliged to inform employees if their jobs are often at risk two months in advance. However, this does not mean that these workers will ultimately lose their jobs. United is turning to new voluntary measures to reduce the number of employees.
United and American Airlines recently began calling back thousands of employees who were on leave when the first round of state payroll ran out in the fall. Congress approved additional aid to industry last year on condition that they recall workers on leave and keep payrolls by March 31. United told employees last year that the callbacks would likely be temporary.
“Despite continued efforts to distribute vaccines, customer demand has not changed significantly since these employees were recalled,” the airline said in an employee report seen Friday by CNBC. “When the callbacks began, United said most of the employees who were recalled would be returning to their previous status due to the fall break around April 1st.”
Hawaiian Airlines also sent vacation notices to employees, saying that up to 900 jobs could be cut if aid ran out. Some American Airlines employees may soon receive similar communications, according to a statement from the flight attendants union.
United involuntarily took around 13,000 employees on leave in the fall as the terms of the $ 25 billion Congress approved for U.S. airlines last year expired. The number of workers receiving WARN notices is higher as some workers also voluntarily take leave or enroll in other optional programs.
Since the recovery in demand is still a long way off, the unions are now seeking additional support from the federal government.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents crews at United, Hawaiian, and others, and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, American Airlines’ flight attendants union, wrote to President Joe Biden and the leaders of Congress on Friday urging them to do one Third round to hold federal payroll for airlines that would get jobs by September 30th.
“Without immediate action in this area, key workers will again find themselves faced with incredible uncertainty as jobs will be lost and the cost of the job that airlines will create in the coming days will be reduced,” write AFA President Sara Nelson and APFA – President Julie Hedrick.
American Airlines cut around 19,000 jobs in the fall after the payroll had expired. The flight attendant union said on Friday that vacation notifications could be coming soon.
“American announced yesterday that we may be overstaffed again due to growing uncertainties in both international and domestic demand,” APFA’s Hedrick said in a memo to flight attendants on Friday. “As a result, the company may be sending a second round of WARN letters to employees across the company.”
The union said it was discussing measures to moderate the overstaffing with American management.
American declined to comment, but its CEO on Thursday hinted at downsizing.
“We’ll definitely have to address this if demand doesn’t pick up,” said CEO Doug Parker on a call for earnings. “We are already talking to our unions about things we can possibly do.”