CHICAGO (CBS) — A dire warning from one of Chicago’s largest employers.
United Airlines announced it will send notices of potential furloughs to nearly half of its U.S. employees. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey has more from O’Hare with more on the local impact.
There are roughly 36,000 jobs at stake.
United cautioned that not everyone who received one of these notices will actually be furloughed. It will have a lot to do with travel volumes through the rest of the summer. If this nearly empty ticketing area is any indication, it will be a bumpy road.
On Wednesday, the United pilots’ union received furlough warnings for 2,250 of their pilots.
“Today is a devastating day for United pilots,” said Captain Todd Insler with United Airlines MEC. The union for flight attendants received another 15,000. Gate and customer service agents, maintenance employees, call center, catering and network operation employees also got the notice.
Totaling nearly 36,000 U.S. employees.
And it comes just about week after United announced it would ramp up its schedule in August.
United’s Josh Ernest had warned “if we do see a decline in people purchasing tickets, then we’ll scale back out schedule accordingly.”
And since then, infection rates have worsened in many parts of the country. And Mayor Lori Lightfoot cautioned Chicagoans not to travel to 15 states without a mandatory two-week quarantine.
The final number of furloughs will depend on travel demand and how many of United’s 95,000 employees take advantage of unpaid leave and early retirement programs.
“We have time between now and October 1 and we hope to have the details finalized very soon,” Insler said.
The pilots’ union is trying to support voluntary programs. The union representing flight attendants is also pushing to extend The CARES Act Payroll Support Program. Transportation Expert Joe Schwieterman called the potential impact “devastating.”
“This is a big deal both for Chicago and the airline industry. Hometown airline. Big workforce,” Schwieterman said.
What does this kind of announcement from United mean for the airline industry as a whole?
“Once this CARES Act funding ends we could see some pretty big layoffs in a sector that we thought might be back on its feet this fall,” Schwieterman said.
United said demand took a hit after the quarantine orders in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It’s expecting Chicago’s quarantine order will have a similar impact. In August, United will operate about 35% of its planned schedule.