U.S. Airlines Renew Job Warnings as United Sees 14,000 at Risk

United Airlines Holdings Inc. notified 14,000 employees that their jobs will be at risk in April after the second round of federal payroll support expires, saying the coronavirus pandemic still weighs heavily on the travel outlook.

The new notices cover every work group except pilots, United said. Last month, U.S. airlines recalled furloughed workers after Congress renewed federal aid for the industry through March 31.

“Despite ongoing efforts to distribute vaccines, customer demand has not changed much since we recalled those employees,” United said in a message to employees Friday.

The warning underscores the uncertain outlook at airlines, which are still reeling from an unprecedented decline in air travel because of the coronavirus pandemic. American Airlines Group Inc. may have to issue a second round of furlough notices when federal aid expires, Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker told employees in a meeting to discuss the carrier’s fourth-quarter loss.

“Demand has not returned as quickly as we had hoped, so there’s a chance we’ll be in a position where we have more team members than we need to operate the summer schedule,” said Matt Miller, a spokesman for American.

Union Talks

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline is talking with its unions about options, Parker told financial analysts Thursday. The company has already agreed to another round of voluntary leaves and early exits, Julie Hedrick, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants told members.

The union “is not interested in offering concessions,” Hedrick said in an email to attendants.

The APFA and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA sent a letter Friday to President Joe Biden and Congressional leaders requesting $15 billion for a third round of airline payroll support, with funding through Sept 30. “The alternative is mass layoffs starting in April,” the unions said.

At United, a spokeswoman said the carrier would strive to lower the actual number of job cuts, just as it did last fall after initially sending federal WARN Act notices to 36,000 employees in July. The Chicago-based company ended up laying off 13,000 people in October when the first round of payroll aid ended.

United began a new voluntary separation program earlier this month, covering flight attendants, mechanics, dispatchers and other work groups. The number of people who accept that offer will affect the total of those at risk of furlough in April. The company’s newest jobs warning was reported earlier by CNBC.

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