Home > News > E-Lines: July 11, 2020

E-Lines: July 11, 2020

Date: July 10, 2020

Company Announces Plans for a Reduction in Force

In response to the continuing economic crisis United Airlines is facing, the company has stated they need to reduce the Flight Attendant workforce by 15,100 Flight Attendants (active and inactive), effective October 1, 2020.

While it has been clear for quite some time that there will be a need to temporarily reduce our workforce, it is equally clear that the reduction the company has announced is an enormous overreach.  In comparison to our domestic competitors, what United has identified is out of proportion with the industry and with our current economic situation.

United MEC President, Ken Diaz, addressed our strong belief that this number is far more than is necessary and our commitment to significantly reduce the impact to our Flight Attendant community.

Our Contractual language will be followed.  If there are an insufficient number of volunteers for voluntary furlough, Flight Attendants junior to System Seniority 10,209 in the class of 11/09/1996 as indicated on the June 23, 2020 System Seniority List could be placed on involuntary furlough status.

It should be noted, Flight Attendants who have or will participate in the VSP2 will appear on the June 23, 2020 System Seniority list. These individuals will contribute toward the reduction in force number the result of which will reduce the 15,100 number.

AFA continues to advocate for ways to avoid an involuntary furlough and minimize the impact on Flight Attendants.  We are encouraging the company to continue to explore cost-neutral options.

Flight Attendants will be able to request voluntary furlough in increments of 8 or 13 months.  It is anticipated that each of these options will have some sort of allocation associated with it.   Flight Attendants awarded voluntary furloughs will:

  • Accrue & retain seniority for the entire period of voluntary furlough
  • Maintain medical, dental and vision coverage at active rates
  • Be eligible for online pass benefits as if an active Flight Attendant (except CJA).

A factor that further complicates this reduction in force announcement is the previously announced and simultaneous base closures at FRA, HKG and NRT. While these will be addressed in subsequent communications as we gain additional information, the furlough announcement may impact some of the required transfer activity for those impacted.

Voluntary Furlough

Prior to any involuntary job loss, our Contract protects us by requiring that eligible Flight Attendants be offered an opportunity to take part in a voluntary furlough (Section 18.A.).

Those Flight Attendants who participate in the voluntary furlough:

·               Will continue to accrue and retain seniority

·               Be eligible for the same on-line pass travel benefits (except CJA)

·               Receive Medical and Dental insurance on the same basis as an active Flight Attendant

·               Will not be entitled to furlough pay, but will be eligible to file for unemployment, under the guidelines for your individual state (the same as with COLA)

Additionally, Flight Attendants will be returned to the same base from which voluntary furloughed, be allowed to return prior to expiration, by request, for personal reasons due to hardship, with approval of the company.  If it becomes necessary to extend the specified duration, or a further reduction is necessary, all voluntary furloughs must be rebid.

If a recall is necessary prior to the termination of the specified duration of the voluntary furlough, recall will first be offered to those on involuntary furlough status in seniority order and then to Flight Attendants on voluntary furlough status in inverse order of seniority.

Keep in mind that a Flight Attendant who is ultimately subject to involuntary furlough cannot save her/himself by bidding a voluntary furlough.  However, you can become eligible to be awarded a voluntary furlough based on how those who are senior to you and who are above the line demarcating those subject to involuntary furlough bid. It cannot be stressed enough;  if you are interested in taking the voluntary furlough, you should be for it even if you are below the line of demarcation because through the bids of others, you can potentially become eligible to be awarded the voluntary furlough.

If your circumstances allow, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of the time off a voluntary furlough will provide and help save the job of a fellow flying partner.

Furlough-Mitigation Partnership

If an insufficient number of voluntary furloughs are awarded, the company will work with the union in mitigation partnerships (Section 16.A.2.c.).

  • Prior to implementing any involuntary furlough, the company shall offer furlough-mitigation partnerships sufficient to eliminate the need to furlough.
  • A furlough-mitigation partnership covers a period of 13 or more bid months.

Involuntary Furlough

Following voluntary furlough and furlough-mitigation partnerships, the Union will discuss shorter-term COLAs, awarding all voluntary furlough bids, including those who may be subject to involuntary furlough, and any other Contractually compliant options before a determination of if, and how many, Flight Attendants will be involuntarily furloughed.

While your Union will do everything possible to avoid an involuntary furlough, should it become necessary, Section 18.B. of our Contract provides that:

  • Any reduction in Flight Attendants who have completed probation shall be in inverse order of system classification seniority.
  • A furloughed Flight Attendant (involuntary) shall be re-employed in order of system classification seniority at the time of the furlough.
  • Recall to the base from which furloughed or will take precedence over any bids to that base which may be on file.
    • If vacancies do not exist, Section 18.B.3. will apply.

As stated earlier, if a recall is necessary prior to the termination of the specified duration of the voluntary furlough, recall will first be offered to those involuntarily furloughed, in system seniority order.

The company has acknowledged the furlough (severance) pay option for Flight Attendants having at least one year of service and has made a commitment to make these furlough payments consistent with the terms of the Contract.  These payments are based on the minimum monthly guarantee.  Federal, State and Social Security/Medicare deduction will be withheld along with any wage attachments, salary advance or overpayment.  However, credit union, Flexible Spending or 401(k) plan deductions will not be withheld. (Furlough pay is not included in the definition of considered earnings.  As a result, United contributions to your 401(k) based on these payments will not occur.

We have compiled a list of Questions and Answers regarding all aspects of this process and will update it as new questions are received.  This list can be viewed on the COVID-19 Recovery page at www.unitedafa.org/covid-19-recovery.

If you have questions that have not been addressed in this document, please e-mail COVID-19recovery@unitedafa.org. We will obtain the answers and update the Q & A.

We want you to know that we are advocating minimizing and hopefully eliminating the potential for any Flight Attendant to be involuntarily furloughed. This includes awarding all voluntary furlough bids, even for those below the seniority line.

We realize this announcement has caused a great deal of uncertainty and concern.  Take a breath and give yourself some time to adjust to this new information; it’s understandably overwhelming.  Begin considering your options, especially if the flexibility and time off afforded by a voluntary furlough might be something you may consider.  We will be moving forward, but you don’t need to make a decision today.  Discuss with your family, your financial advisors and colleagues what may fit your needs.  Ask questions, get information and make a decision based on a thoughtful review and not out of fear.  We will get through this, together.

Voluntary Furlough

Bid Opens
July 08, 2020
at 3:00 PM CT

Bid Closes
July 30, 2020
at 1700 CT

July 31, 2020
by 1700 CT



Max Participation

8 months

October 1, 2020 – June 1, 2021


13 months

October 1, 2020 – October 29, 2021


Furlough Mitigation Partnerships – 13-month duration

Bid Opens
July 8, 2020
at 3:00 PM CT

Bid Closes
August 19, 2020 at 8:00 AM CT

Awards Posted by
August 19, 2020

Involuntary Furlough (if necessary)

List Published
August 24, 2020

Last day of work
September 30, 2020

Must complete check-out process*

*If an involuntary furlough is necessary, the company will provide a check-list of items (ie returning of company badge and property, etc) that must be completed to be eligible for a recall to work.

Questions Regarding VSP Offering

Many of our Local Council Offices and our MEC Benefits Committee continue to receive questions about various aspects of insurance coverage in the event someone was to participate in the Voluntary Separation Program (VSP2).  We understand there are a number of questions and considerable frustration when trying to obtain answers to questions.  We are learning, in many cases, answers to questions are including in the Program Overview for your specific offering. 

We want to be very clear.  Every offer is uniquely tailored to your specific circumstances.  Your age, your years of service, your insurance coverage, the number of dependents, etc. are all contemplated in the unique offering that is available to you via Help Hub.  While we understand that everyone is accustomed to the Union being able to address your specific benefits, all of which are derived from our Contract, the VSP2 is a uniquely different “animal.”

We all know that deciding to leave the job we love and the life style to which we’ve become accustomed is, perhaps, one of the most difficult decisions of our lifetime.  It is, in fact, a life changing event. 

Prior to deciding, you must invest the time to understand what you are agreeing to if you elect to participate.  Read over your individual Program Overview and the Program Q & A that accompanies it.   These are tailored specifically to you, your contractual entitlement based upon your pre-merger airline affiliation.  The VSP is an enhancement to your contractual entitlements which is laid over your contractual retirement benefits. 

Remember, option B of the VSP is no longer available.  While this option may continue to appear on your custom-tailored program offer, that option ended on June 18, 2020.  You must make your decision on the VSP2 no later than July 15, 2020 and you need to set time aside to review and understand the VSP2 offerings before doing so.  We trust you will invest the time in understanding the options the VSP2 create for you.  If you need assistance, use the tools available via Help Hub to seek answers to your questions.   Time is running out to make this election.

Benefits Premiums for those on Special COLAs

Over the past couple of months, literally thousands of Flight Attendants have taken time away from work, foregoing their salary during this period of incredible adversity for our industry and our Company.  During this time, many of you have expended inordinate periods of time talking to the Benefits Service Center trying to stay current with your benefit premiums only to be frustrated to learn that there is no mechanism in place for you to proactively pay your monthly premiums to ensure there is no lapse in or cancellation of coverage.

Your MEC Benefits Committee shares your frustration and has worked diligently to persuade the company to put in place a mechanism for employees to pay their monthly premiums, from the start of the Special COLA, using a credit card through some type of online portal.  While we have had some success in getting the company to begin the billing for premiums at a lower arrearage threshold of $500 versus what was previously a $750 threshold, the interplay between United Payroll and the United’s Benefits Administrator continues to confound the process. The end result, despite best efforts to mitigate this from happening, when Members receive a bill for premiums, it is almost always a very large bill representing several months premiums,

We continue our work to press United management to implement an alternative method for paying for premiums.  Without an improvement to the process, given the potentially large number of voluntary furloughs, we only expect this problem to increase exponentially putting the continued benefit coverage of our Members at risk.  We understand your frustration and want you to know that continue pressing for a change to improve this process and provide you with some predictability as to when you will receive your premium billing.

AFA Attains Temporary Modification to Section 28 - Commuter Program

The continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a reduction in flights that has resulted in a reduction in the options available for Flight Attendants who commute by air.  In addition, this flight reduction is not conducive to a Flight Attendant being able to list for a primary and secondary flight within a reasonable period prior to an assignment.   This being the case, AFA has attained a temporary modification to the language in Section 28.B.4.b. to require the Flight Attendant be listed on one (1) flight and the requirement to be listed for a secondary flight is waived.  No other provisions of our Contract are modified by this Agreement.  This modification is effective July 1, 2020 until further notice.

Resolution on Furlough Mitigation

The United Master Executive Council met today by teleconference to address issues related to the Company’s reduction in personnel announcement, international base closures and the agreement to temporarily modify the terms of Section 28 – Commuter Program (reported above.)

During today’s call, the United Master Executive Council adopted a Furlough Mitigation Resolution   to press United management to explore aggressively pursue contractual opportunities for discretionary time off.

Furlough Mitigation Resolution

Whereas United management has determined there should be a potential reduction in force of up to 15,100 Flight Attendants, and

Whereas United management has stated the need for this reduction in force is necessary to recover from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a return to profitability, and

Whereas United management has stated   a desire to be able to “snap back” opportunistically while saving cash and developing a “flexible people plan”, and

Whereas the United MEC is prepared to do everything possible to eliminate the need for the involuntary furlough of any of the more than 25,000 Members we represent, and

Whereas our Contract provides the company with a number of scheduling mechanisms to manage manpower and keep employees connected to their benefits, and

Whereas proactively managing manpower and keeping employees qualified and working is what best positions the company to respond to resurgence in the demand for air travel.

Therefore Be It Resolved the United MEC directs the MEC President/designee to enter into discussions with United management on the following points:

Discretionary Time Off

  • Provide incentives for voluntary discretionary time off.
  • Provide for a variety of Special Leave periods to be offered based on seniority
  • Implement a process to provide for partial month Special COLAs
  • Aggressively pursue and award Partnerships of varying durations with varying start dates
  • Expand opportunities for daily discretionary time off
  • Continued use of Reserve schedules having more than the minimum 12 days off

Be It Finally Resolved that any agreed upon solutions will be incorporated into a Letter of Agreement that will govern how the extraordinary manpower overage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will be systematically addressed until United returns to a full flight schedule.


July 10, 2020

Lineholders May Release Sick Leave Pairings in Advance of 8hrs to Departure

 Flight Attendants are reminded that sick leave pairings from their monthly flight schedule may be released into open time earlier than eight (8) hours prior to scheduled departure. In certain circumstances where Flight Attendants become ill after the award of monthly schedules, and where they learn from their physician that their illness will keep them away from the work place for an extended period of time, they may call to request the pairings encompassed in this period of absence be released to open time.

A Flight Attendant who wants to release their sick leave pairing can do so by notifying the Flight Attendant Support Team (FAST), when calling to place yourself on sick leave that you would like to release the trips to open time earlier than the eight (8) hours prior to scheduled departure.

Keep in mind that although Flight Attendants have the latitude to make the decision on whether or not to release their trips early, there is no requirement to do so, especially in those circumstances where there is an expectation of being able to fly those trips at some point in the future.

Build Your Resiliency – Telephonic Support Groups Exclusively for Flight Attendants

Sponsored by your AFA EAP/FADAP, these telephonic sessions are facilitated by a confidential mental health professional.  During this incredibly stressful time involving base closures, voluntary and involuntary furloughs, changes to our work schedules and lineholder/Reserve status, there are plenty of items all of us would appreciate assistance in managing.

These calls, exclusively for Flight Attendants, will provide opportunities to learn some techniques on stress management, decision making under pressure, emotional balance while creating an opportunity to connect with flying partners in the aviation industry during this period of uncertainty.  No pre-registration is required.  You are able to join any and all sessions.

The support groups starts on Monday, July 13, 2020 and will be offered twice each week (Monday and Friday) at 3:00PM EST through August 7, 2020.  Each call is one hour in length.

Domestic Dial In Number

855 544 2320

401 648 9218





Day of Week


















Start time









Share this page:

More News