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Company Announces Plans for a Reduction in Force

Date: July 11, 2020

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.

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