CHICAGO - United Airlines pilots agreed to a deal that will spare almost 3,000 pilots from furloughs through at least June.
Pilots agreed to work fewer hours, with the most junior pilots who were at greatest risk of furloughs facing the greatest reductions, according to the union representing United's 3,000 pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association.
"In addition to avoiding furloughs, this agreement greatly enhances our ability to bounce back - so we can welcome more passengers and return to the 2019 levels of seat and fleet advancement more quickly," United's Bryan Quigley, senior vice president of flight operations, said in a message to pilots Monday.
The agreement also opens a voluntary separation program to a wider pool of pilots and gradually increases pilots' hours as passengers return, according to the union.
Earlier, Chicago-based United warned it planned to furlough 2,850 of its 13,000 pilots, along with 13,500 employees in other roles, as the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on air travel.
Airlines that accepted billions of dollars in federal aid this spring agreed to avoid layoffs before Oct. 1.
Airline executives and unions representing industry employees are pushing for additional aid to preserve jobs, but in the meantime, tens of thousands of employees face involuntary job cuts, including the other United employees and about 19,000 employees at American Airlines.
Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, has said it expects to avoid furloughs or layoffs through the end of the year after 16,900 employees took voluntary extended time off or left the company. Frontier Airlines also said it has been able to avoid furloughs.
Delta Air Lines was able to avoid furloughs for flight attendants and ground-based employees after 40,000 signed up for short- and long-term unpaid leaves and 20% voluntarily left the company. Ground-based employees saw their hours cut 25%.
About 1,700 Delta pilots still face furloughs, which were pushed back to Nov. 1 last week while the airline and the union representing its pilots continue negotiating.
Keeping employees on the payroll should help airlines ramp up operations more quickly as travelers resume flying because they can stay up-to-date on training, said Alan Stolzer, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
"It really is a matter of how deep, how long, and whether the airlines can keep them committed to the industry and company during that time," he said. "If they can't and it lasts too long, it could certainly extend the ramp-up time."
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