United Airlines and its pilots’ union said on Thursday they agreed on two different packages to reduce involuntary furloughs this fall and to keep pilots trained and ready when demand returns.
U.S. airlines revenues have plummeted, but carriers cannot lay off employees until October 1 under the terms of the $32 billion federal aid deal. Unions are currently lobbying lawmakers to provide another $32 billion through March to prevent thousands of furloughs.
United’s deal with the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) includes an early retirement option for pilots aged 62 and older. Also part of the agreement are different options for pilots to voluntarily reduce hours or take a leave of absence during which, provided they maintain ongoing training at United’s expense, they would also receive health benefits.
Bryan Quigley, United’s Senior Vice President of Flight Operations, sent the terms to pilots in a memo late Thursday.
ALPA Chairman Todd Insler said the deal has “groundbreaking provisions that provide the option (for pilots) to remain qualified, allowing a faster recall once passenger demand returns.”
Generally, airlines are hesitant to furlough pilots because of the cost of retraining them when they return. These agreements are designed to promote a rapid response when consumer demand justifies a ramping up of operations.
United had said last week it was sending notices of potential furloughs to 36,000 U.S.-based front-line employees, or about 45% of staff, including 2,250 pilots.