According to United Airlines, up to 36,000 of its employees could be on vacation due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That is almost half of the company̵
“During this crisis, we were honest and direct with you about our need to align our workforce with the travel needs,” it said.
The airline expects capacity to decline 75% this month from July last year.
The company also said that not everyone who receives a warning letter will definitely be on leave, with the final number depending on whether trading conditions improve and how many workers accept layoffs and temporary vacation offers.
“Our main goal during this crisis was to ensure that United – and the jobs it supports – are here when customers fly again,” United Airlines said in a statement to the employees.
In response to the announcement, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said, “The vacation numbers forecast by United Airlines are a slap in the face, but they’re also the most honest assessment we’ve seen about the state of the industry.”
The U.S. government has offered $ 50 billion (£ 40 billion) to support the aviation industry, which has agreed to not lay off staff or cut wages by September 30.
United Airlines will receive $ 5 billion of this funding and will not make any cuts until October 1.
Pilar Wolfsteller, Americas Air Transport Editor at FlightGlobal, told the BBC that United’s announcement is an indicator of the future of the aviation industry after the corona virus.
“It is the first of the major US airlines to come out and clearly say that after all we will be a much smaller airline.”
“Now we have to see what the other airlines will do, but we expect the industry as a whole to shrink and will likely be a third smaller than it was in this crisis,” she added.
Last week American Airlines said that there could be 20,000 more front workers than it needs to operate, but not all of them would be on leave in October.
Airlines are in the same situation worldwide, and thousands of jobs across the industry are under threat.
“We can assume that this crisis will have a long shadow,” said Alexandre de Juniac, general manager of the airline trading group AITA. Global airlines are expected to lose up to $ 84 billion this year.
Although airports and airlines have introduced new social distance measures, such as wearing masks on flights, many people are still nervous about flying.