United Airlines warns aid isn’t enough to avoid workforce cuts

United Airlines planes at Newark Liberty International Airport

Leslie Josephs | CNBC

United Airlines warned Friday that it expects to reduce its workforce because of the rapid spread of coronavirus and severe measures to stop the disease’s spread, despite a sweeping government aid package that passed the House on Friday.

“The global economy has taken a big hit, and we don’t expect travel demand to snap back for some time,” wrote CEO Oscar Munoz and United’s president, Scott Kirby, who’s scheduled to take the helm next month, in a message to employees.

United and its competitors have slashed flying and said that even their reduced schedules are drawing few travelers. The Chicago-based airline has cut its April schedule by more than 60% and expects planes to fly less than 20% full or in the single digits in some cases, the executives said.

“And, based on how doctors expect the virus to spread and how economists expect the global economy to react, we expect demand to remain suppressed for months after that, possibly into next year,” they said, adding that they are planning for the worst.

“That means being honest, fair and upfront with you: if the recovery is as slow as we fear, it means our airline and our workforce will have to be smaller than it is today,” Munoz and Kirby wrote.

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