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United Airlines, unions call for 6-month extension of federal aid, restart of stimulus negotiations

Lucas Manfredi
·3 mins read

United Airlines and its industry unions have sent a letter urging Congressional leadership and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to restart "critical negotiations of COVID-19 legislation."

The airline and unions are also asking that the latest stimulus package include a clean six-month extension of funding for the Payroll Support Program, which requires airlines to keep their employees on the payroll through Oct. 1.

"Without additional funding for the PSP grants, up to 16,000 members of the United family are at risk of involuntary furloughs beginning October 1st," United CEO Scott Kirby wrote Friday. "Continuation of this critical program would prevent the furloughs and provide additional time for the industry to reach recovery without losing our colleagues to involuntary furloughs."

UNITED AIRLINES PILOT UNION VOTING TO SAVE THOUSANDS OF JOBS

While United says it is working around the clock to reach deals with its unions to avoid as many involuntarily furloughs as possible, the airline warned they will be "unavoidable" without additional financial support from the federal government.

"We recognize the severe impact the virus is having on our entire economy and the need for support touches many other individuals, organizations and programs. Assistance now can help to lessen the long-term impact to the economy and ultimately speed recovery," Kirby added. "The sooner Congress and the Administration can come together again and reach an agreement, the better United and the entire industry’s chances of keeping employees and returning the economic benefits we provide for the larger economy."

For the remainder of the third quarter, United expects travel demand to be down more than 70% and revenue down 85% compared to 2019 levels.

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In addition to raising billions of dollars in the private capital markets to weather the pandemic, United said it continues to serve more than 99% of its domestic markets and has added more than 5,000 cargo-only flights to ensure medical equipment can be delivered to communities in need.

"Getting through this crisis will continue to require cooperation and sacrifice from everyone," Kirby said. "We respectfully urge an urgent return to negotiations and an agreement for aviation workers and the larger economy."

United is the second airline to send a joint letter with its unions to Congress urging a six-month extension of federal aid, following a similar move by competitor American Airlines last week.

American warned on Wednesday that despite the "aggressive self-help measures the company has taken to bolster its financial position," including many of its employees opting for voluntary leave and early retirement, the airline still faces nearly 20,000 involuntary furloughs and "significant reductions in air service" in the coming weeks without a new round of stimulus.

Meanwhile, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo that the airline will avoid involuntary furloughs for most frontline employees except pilots as a result of thousands of employees who participated in voluntary leave programs and reduced work hours. Delta previously said about 1,941 pilots would face layoffs in October.

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