United Airlines Says Rising Travel Demand Will Spare Flight Attendants, Thousands of Others From Furlough This Fall

  • United told flight attendants, ramp workers and customer service agents that they won't face job cuts this fall.
  • The Chicago-based airline says rising travel demand means their jobs are safe this fall.
  • The airline has already started the process of hiring pilots again.

United Airlines told more than 40,000 employees on Friday that their jobs are safe when federal Covid-19 aid for the sector expires this fall thanks to a rebound in travel demand.

The recovery in bookings, led largely by U.S. leisure travelers, has encouraged airlines, including United, American, Delta and Spirit, to set plans to resume hiring pilots.

"Given the increase in customer demand and our current outlook for the future, we're excited to announce that we will not need to furlough flight attendants assigned to active, open Inflight bases again this fall when the current Payroll Support Program (PSP) funding ends on October 1," wrote John Slater, senior vice president of inflight services, to United's roughly 23,000 flight attendants. "This news provides great relief to many of our flying partners who were facing an uncertain future."

Airport operations workers and customer service agents on Friday received similar memos, which were reviewed by CNBC, which said that United "will not furlough" them when the latest round of aid expires.

"With vaccination rates continuing to climb across the U.S. as the pace of infections decline, additional countries are reopening to vaccinated visitors," said United in a statement. "Given the current outlook for the future of United, we continue to move closer to full frontline staffing levels to support our operation."

United told storekeepers, who work with mechanics, that the airline expects to offer a "sufficient" number of permanent positions before the aid expires on Oct. 1.

"Making these positions available to you in the near-term will better allow you to make informed decisions and should help minimize unnecessary changes," said the memo to that workgroup.

The airline is adding 480 flights this month.

Airlines received $54 billion in federal aid, mostly in the form of grants since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, in exchange for not cutting jobs or pay rates, though thousands of workers accepted buyouts or other voluntary time off at reduced or no pay to help airlines lower labor costs at the companies' request.

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