“The challenging economic outlook means we have some tough decisions ahead as we plan for our airline, and our overall workforce, to be smaller than it is today, starting as early as October 1,” the executives said in the letter.
The note, which was posted online late Wednesday, also said the airline now believes the sharp drop in demand to travel could extend into 2021.
“Travel demand is essentially zero and shows no sign of improving in the near-term,” they wrote. “Less than 200,000 people flew with us during the first two weeks of April this year, compared to more than 6 million during the same time in 2019, a 97 percent drop. And we expect to fly fewer people during the entire month of May than we did on a single day in May 2019.”
“While we have not yet finalized changes to our schedule for July and August, we expect demand to remain suppressed for the remainder of 2020 and likely into next year,” they said.
In the past, the two executives had warned of the need for United’s workforce to be smaller but had not given such an explicit time frame for when staff reductions might start. About 20% of the staff have already signed up for temporary unpaid leaves, but Munoz and Kirby also said buyouts, which they termed “voluntary separation programs,” will be offered.