United warns of more pilot furloughs as U.S. airlines eye second bailout

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – United Airlines (UAL.O) has told its pilots it may need more furloughs than originally planned this year and next due to a worsening industry outlook as COVID-19 cases rise, unless there is another bailout or unions agree to reduce costs until demand returns, a memo reviewed by Reuters showed.

The internal memo, which United confirmed was sent to pilots on Thursday, comes as unions lobby U.S. lawmakers to extend a $32-billion aviation stimulus plan that protected aviation workers’ pay and jobs through September.

“There are really only two ways to mitigate the full impact of furloughs. The first is another stimulus bill,” United’s head of flight operations, Bryan Quigley, said in the memo.

The Chicago-based airline had previously said it would furlough 2,250 pilots between Oct. 1 and the end of 2020 and another 1,650 in 2021, depending on demand.

United did not provide additional comment.

The message follows a warning from budget carrier Spirit Airlines (SAVE.N) this week that it was preparing to inform unions that 20-30% of workers may be furloughed in October when the first government stimulus package runs out.

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