Flight Attendant Union Statement on United Airlines Furlough Projections

WASHINGTON (July 8, 2020) — The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) International President Sara Nelson, representing nearly 50,000 Flight Attendants at 19 airlines including United, today released the following statement on United Airlines' furlough announcement: 

"COVID-19 is an unprecedented threat to aviation workers and the entire U.S. aviation industry. This crisis dwarfs all others in aviation history and there's no end in sight. Demand was just barely climbing back to 20 percent of last year and even those minimal gains evaporated over the last week due to surging COVID-19 cases across the country.

"The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we've seen on the state of the industry.

"The CARES Act Payroll Support Program (PSP) has supported millions of jobs over the last three months, kept people connected to our jobs, healthcare, and able to spend in the larger economy. It also maintained essential service to all of our communities that would otherwise be in jeopardy. The PSP was adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support as the most efficient, direct jobs program that also reigned in the worst corporate behavior by banning stock buybacks, dividends, and capping executive compensation. But the funding to maintain these jobs and the requirement for airlines to keep people on payroll ends this fall without an extension locked in before the summer Congressional recess.

"WARN notices do not predetermine actual involuntary furlough numbers. We will continue our work with our airlines to create voluntary options that can help mitigate involuntary furloughs. But the fact remains that these projected furlough numbers are larger than the total size of most mainline airlines a decade ago. Congress must extend the PSP in order to avoid hundreds of thousands of layoffs from an industry that normally drives economic activity for every other sector and supports more than 11 million jobs. Failing to maintain this successful jobs program will have a ripple effect across the economy. Conversely, a clean extension of the program helps prime us for economic recovery.

"The PSP is an historic workers first program: effective at saving jobs, transparent in application, and the most responsible use of public money in the midst of this crisis. We need to extend it and expand it for all working people."

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