UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, the world's second-largest carrier, will lay off 950 pilots, or about 14 percent of the total, while shrinking its jet fleet to save on fuel, the firm announced on Monday.
The first 100 furloughs will begin in September and extend into 2009 as Chicago-based United retires 100 planes, airline spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said yesterday.
The pilot cutbacks come on top of buyouts offered to 600 senior flight attendants and the elimination of 1,600 salaried jobs amid an 82 percent surge in the price of jet fuel during the past year.
United is paring its U.S. seating capacity by 18 percent by the end of 2009.
“We must take the difficult but necessary step to reduce the number of people we have to run our operation,” McCarthy said. United’s chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association was briefed on the plan Monday, she said.
United hasn’t determined the extent of cuts needed among other labor groups and is working with unions to limit involuntary furloughs, McCarthy said. Pilot union spokesman Dave Kelly declined to comment, citing ongoing talks with United. United has 52,500 employees.
United, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc. and other U.S. carriers have said they'll drop at least 11,850 jobs as they ground 413 planes to trim spending on fuel, the industry’s largest expense. They’re also raising fares and adding fees.
United has said it expects to pay $9.5 billion for fuel this year, up $3.5 billion from 2007. It has 460 planes in its main jet fleet.