United Airlines to lay off 950 pilots

Thursday, June 26, 2008, 14:54 by Aviation Correspondent

United Airlines, the second-biggest airline in the United States, is planning to lay off 950 pilots, which is 15% of its total number of pilots. In a statement, the company said that it had to take “a difficult, but necessary step to reduce the number of people we have to run our business” in the face of high costs of fuel and a slump in economy.

Earlier in June 2008, United Airlines had announced plans to cut its flight schedule, ground about 100 fuel-guzzling jet planes and do away with 1,600 white-collar jobs.

United had also said it would dismantle its budget jet service called Ted Airlines.

United Airlines, a subsidiary of UAL Corporation with corporate offices in Chicago, the United States, has its largest hub at O’Hare International Airport. Its other hubs are Denver International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport.

The website washingtonpost.com quoted Dave Kelly, spokesman for the United Airlines chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, as commenting on the elimination of 950 pilot jobs: “The carrier’s focus on mergers in past years and a lack of focus on operations have contributed to the airline’s current problems. It’s disappointing any time any of our pilots are furloughed. Fuel prices are not totally to blame. The company’s business plan, or lack thereof, contributed to this decision.”

The Air Line Pilots Association represents about 55,000 pilots.

A spokeswoman for United Airlines, washingtonpost.com added, said that other job cuts could follow and that the company had begun notifying other union-represented workers about possible layoffs. Unionised workforce of the airline includes mechanics, flight attendants, customer service agents and baggage handlers.
United Airlines, which has about 6,600 pilots in all, will send the first notification to about 100 pilots by the middle of July 2008. The furloughs will continue into 2009.

Under the furlough system, pilots could return to the airline if financial conditions improve, in order of seniority.

It may be recalled that United Airlines was the first carrier to announce a fee of $25 for a second checked bag. Many airlines, including United Airlines, now charge fees for all checked luggage.

A week ago, Continental Airlines, based in Houston, Texas, and United Airlines had said they would work together in an alliance to enhance revenues with a view to offsetting rising costs of fuel. Under the agreement, the two airlines will book seats on each other’s planes and create joint ventures for overseas flights.