United Airlines will send layoff warnings to 36,000 employees—nearly half its US staff—in the clearest signal yet of how deeply the pandemic is hurting the airline industry. The outlook for a recovery in air travel has dimmed in just the past two weeks with rising infection rates in much of the US causing some states to impose new quarantine requirements. United officials said Wednesday that they still hope to limit the number of October layoffs by offering early retirement, and that the 36,000 number is a worst-case scenario, the AP reports. The notices being sent to employees this month are meant to comply with a 60-day warning ahead of mass job cuts.
The furloughs would include 15,000 flight attendants, 11,000 customer service and gate agents, 5,500 maintenance workers, and 2,250 pilots. “The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we’ve seen on the state of the industry," said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “This crisis dwarfs all others in aviation history, and there’s no end in sight.” If United carries through on the notices, furloughs would take effect on or shortly after Oct. 1. United can’t lay off workers before then as a condition of the $5 billion in federal payroll aid it began receiving this spring. United executives said the notices cover 45% of the airline's US staff. Another 1,300 management and support staff will be laid off Oct. 1, the company said.
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