Image: United Airlines 737-900ER. Source: United Airlines
CHICAGO (Reuters) – United Airlines Holdings Inc announced on Wednesday it is cutting domestic, Canadian and international flying and implementing a series of cost-cutting measures, some of the most drastic actions by a U.S. airline to date as the spreading coronavirus has depressed air travel demand.
In a letter to employees, Chicago-based United said it was reducing U.S. and Canadian flights by 10% and international flying by 20% in the month of April and eyeing similar cuts in May.
In addition to a hiring freeze, the airline is delaying merit-based salary increases and offering employees the option of taking a voluntary unpaid leave of absence.
Until now, United had reduced flying only to areas most hit by the coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has since spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than inside.
The broader reductions follow moves recently announced by Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd and British Airways.
“The experience of these and other foreign carriers is a further sign that the impact of COVID-19 on our industry – both internationally and here in the U.S. – continues to evolve rapidly,” United said in the letter, signed by CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby.
The rapid, global spread of the virus has forced airlines to abandon their usual strategies for crisis management.
Reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis.