United Airlines to furlough over 16,000 employees

This comes as the restriction on layoffs under the CARES Act is set to expire.

September 2, 2020, 11:38 AM

United Airlines plans to furlough 16,370 employees on Oct. 1 as the federal restriction against layoffs under the CARES Act expires on that date.

Among those workers are 2,850 pilots and 6,920 flight attendants, the airline said.

"The pandemic has drawn us in deeper and lasted longer than almost any expert predicted, and in an environment where travel demand is so depressed, United cannot continue with staffing levels that significantly exceed the schedule we fly," a letter to United employees said. "Sadly, we don’t expect demand to return to anything resembling normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine."

The carrier previously notified 36,000 employees they faced potential job cuts, but was able to reduce that number through various voluntary buyout and early retirement programs. United said roughly 7,400 workers have taken voluntary buyouts or early retirements and thousands of others have agreed to long-term leaves of absence.

"Unfortunately, all of our efforts so far to cut costs, raise debt and introduce voluntary options have not been enough to avoid involuntary furloughs entirely," a letter to United employees said.

PHOTO:United Airlines Boeing 777 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport in Los Angeles, August 27, 2020.
United Airlines Boeing 777 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport in Los Angeles, August 27, 2020.
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images via Getty Images

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, United had just under 100,000 employees.

American Airlines announced late last month it will furlough approximately 17,500 U.S. based employees -- including 1,600 pilots and 8,100 flight attendants. Delta Air Lines said it plans to furlough almost 2,000 pilots this fall.

Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways both said they are looking to avoid any layoffs, at least in the short term.

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Various airline executives have voiced their support for a "clean extension" of the CARES Act in order to avoid such layoffs. A group of 16 Senate Republicans and over 200 House members have also expressed their support for an extension of the payroll support program, but Congress has yet to reach an agreement.

ABC News' Mina Kaji contributed to this report