United Airlines projects massive layoffs in fall

In what would be the biggest airline layoff during the pandemic, United Airlines is preparing to send a 60-day warning notice to 36,000 employees, nearly half of its U.S. staff.

With the virus pandemic continuing to affect air travel, United Airlines announced Wednesday that it is preparing to send a 60-day warning of a layoff as required by the Federal WARN Act.

United officials told The Associated Press that they still hope to limit the number of layoffs by offering early retirement benefits, and that 36,000 is a worst-case scenario.

The furloughs could include up to 15,000 flight attendants, 11,000 customer service and gate agents, 5,500 maintenance workers and 2,250 pilots.

With ticket sales sagging again, the Chicago-based airline said it is still losing about $40 million a day.

Layoffs are “the last option left to protect the long-term interests of the company,” said the senior United official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

“The reality is that United simply cannot continue at our current payroll level past October 1 in an environment where travel demand is so depressed. And involuntary furloughs come as a last resort, after months of company-wide cost-cutting and capital-raising,” in a memo sent to United Airlines employees obtained by The Hill.

According to CNBC, the memo also indicated that some employees may receive the warning notice, but may not get laid off.

Delta Air Lines recently told employees that it will send layoff notices to more than 2,500 of its 14,000 pilots. Germany’s Lufthansa has warned that it might cut 22,000 jobs, and Air France last week announced plans to eliminate 7,500 jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.