New York, Jan. 4: United Airlines said Friday that it would lay off nearly 1,500 management and salaried employees by January 19. That is a 14 per cent reduction in its management and salaried work force, and a 1.9 per cent decline from its total work force of 80,000 employees.
United, a unit of the UAL Corp, has been struggling to restructure its business since filing for bankruptcy protection on December 9. It has to meet certain monthly cash flow expectations set forth by its four lenders so that it can obtain access to $ 700 million of loans. United said that the furloughs would help it achieve the cost cuts needed to reach those cash-flow numbers.
The airline also said it would close its remaining 32 city ticket offices by January 28, resulting in the furlough of an additional 188 workers. Dan Walsh, United’s vice president for sales, said in a statement that United customers were increasingly buying tickets online or through a reservations hot line. This made the city ticket offices unnecessary, he said.
United has not decided who among its management and salaried employees will be laid off. It said it would send notices to the affected workers as soon as those decisions were made. “These changes are part of the process of creating a new business that is competitive, customer-focused and sustainable,” Sara Fields, United’s senior vice president in charge of people, said in a statement.
Last week, United put a message on its employee hot line saying that “significant layoffs are likely in the short run.” The company said that it had recorded that message because a federal law required it to give advance warning if there were big layoffs or plant closings in the near future.
Since September 11, 2001, United has laid off more than 20,000 workers, or a fifth of its work force. Unionised employees have long complained that United has too many managers on its payroll and that the airline could make its operations more efficient by laying off some of those workers.
The airline is also in negotiations with its unions for short-term and long-term concessions. It is seeking interim cuts of $ 70 million a month from its unions and long-term cuts of $ 2.4 billion a year through 2008.
In a previously announced cutback, United will end service at two airports in South America and one in Germany on Tuesday, resulting in the layoffs of 183 workers. On the same day, United will also switch to regional jets instead of large planes to serve five relatively small cities in the United States, resulting in the layoffs of 150 workers. And on Saturday, United will close its reservations offices in San Francisco; Long Beach, California, and Indianapolis, resulting in the layoffs of 686 employees.