United Airlines bosses have told workers none will be furloughed or face pay cuts before September 30.
In a joint statement to its 100,000 staff chief executive Oscar Munoz and president J. Scott Kirby said the impact of COVID-19 is “far worse” than after 9/11.
In the message the carrier welcomed the passing by US Congress of the emergency CARE COVD-19 bill that will provide billions of dollars of emergency financing to business.
The airline bosses said: “This federal assistance buys us time to adapt to this new environment and assess how long it will take for our economy to begin to recover.
“But, what this means for you right now is that United will not conduct involuntary furloughs or pay cuts in the US before September 30.”
The letter to staff continued: “Everyone had a role in this effort and, as you always do, you came through for us.
“While Oscar, Scott, our union leaders and our government affairs and regulatory teams worked around-the-clock, on behalf of all of you, to educate leaders in the federal government about the unique and dramatic impact the COVID-19 outbreak has had on United Airlines, our United Airlines family sprang into action.
“Your participation in the last few days was critical. More than 30,000 of you sent more than 100,000 messages to your representatives in Congress and another 5,000 signed a petition for international employees and retirees.
“Our union leaders also activated their organisations to amplify the message for the good of our company.
“The speed at which everyone stepped up and acted was remarkable and shows that when we come together, we can accomplish incredible things for our company. Thank you for what you did to help in getting this legislation passed.”
Munoz and Kirby also praised United all of its staff for taking care of its customers including in its contact centre which has “been particularly tested, handling nearly one million calls in the last two weeks alone”.
The airline’s bosses said: “Across the board, we’ve never been prouder of this team and what we stand for but unfortunately our work is just beginning.
As we look forward, the lessons of past disruptions like 9/11 tell us that we can’t pretend that we are out of the woods. Things are very different today than they were just four weeks ago.
“The global economy has taken a big hit, and we don’t expect travel demand to snap back for some time. Our April schedule is already cut by more than 60% and we expect our load factors to fall into the teens or single digits even with 60% less capacity. We are currently planning to make even deeper cuts in May and June.”
United said it expects demand to be suppressed for months and possibly into next year and that the carrier will plan for the worst while hoping for a faster recovery.
But it said its number one priority is taking care of its people. “That means being honest, fair and upfront with you: if the recovery is as slow as we fear, it means our airline and our workforce will have to be smaller than it is today.”
The letter concluded: “We remain in the business of serving people even when there are fewer people travelling.
“And even in this time of uncertainty, some things are constant: we still have the best airline professionals in the world; we still put our customers at the centre of everything we do; we still operate in the best hubs; and we still have a deep-seated culture of caring for one another.
“So when travel demand returns – and it will return – we will bounce back and be ready to accelerate towards our goal of becoming the best airline in the history of aviation.”
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