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United pilots union votes to approve deal to stop furloughs

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Sept. 28 (UPI) — The United Airlines pilot union members voted to approve an agreement with airline management that would cancel almost 3,000 previously announced furloughs, the union said Monday.

“Our members understood that in order to protect pilot jobs, we needed to approve this agreement,” Todd Insler, United Master Executive Council chairman said in a statement. “We’re spreading the existing flying among our pilot group while locking in permanent contractual gains. I am proud of our pilots for showing the unity and resolve needed in the face of uncertainty.”

The deal prevents any United pilot from being furloughed at least until June 2021, the union said. The company also agrees to allow early retirement for all pilots over age 50 with 10 years of experience. The deal will also shield pilots from temporary work reductions based on market demands, the union said.

“While we still face a difficult path to recovery, your support of this creative and unique agreement puts us in an unparalleled position of strength when demand recovers,” Brian Quigley, the airline’s senior vice president of flight operations, said in a statement on Monday. “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.”

About 2,850 pilots were scheduled for layoffs beginning in October, with 1,000 more pilot furloughs scheduled for next year.

The deal was ratified by 58% of the pilots who voted on it. About 13,000 United pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association.

Meanwhile United still plans to lay off 12,000 other union employees this week, including flight attendants and mechanics.

The Delta Air Lines pilot’s union announced Tuesday that the company would postpone the furlough of more than 1,700 pilots until Nov. 1 to give the union and company more time to negotiate, including the possibility of wage cuts.

Most of Delta’s tens of thousand of workers won’t face job cuts due to voluntary leaves of absence, buyouts and shorter schedules, the airline said.

United and other airlines announced furloughs and job cuts starting Thursday, when $25 billion of federal pandemic rescue aid and protection against furloughs expires. CEOs of U.S. airlines such as Delta and American Airlines are lobbying Congress and the White House for another $25 billion to delay furloughs through next March, but Congress seems unable to come to an agreement on a fourth installment of pandemic relief.

Passenger traffic on U.S. airlines dropped by two-thirds during the second quarter in June to 236,000 flights down from 670,000 flights last year, the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported.

Airlines worldwide have experienced significant losses since the pandemic began early this year and virtually all have made cutbacks to offset the lost revenues from declines in passenger traffic.

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