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United Airlines Aims To Add 50,000 Employees In 5 Years

Date: April 27, 2022

By Andrew Curran, Simple Flying

United Airlines is eyeing 50,000 new hires over the next five years and 11,000 new people this year alone on the back of strong passenger demand and growing confidence about the airline's medium and long-term future. On Tuesday, United announced it would team up with OneTen, a job-creating coalition of leading chief executives and their companies, to lock in those jobs.

New jobs on the back of record revenues

Last week, United CEO Scott Kirby said he expected the current quarter to generate the highest quarterly revenues in the airline's 96-year history. The airline is nearing 2019 operating margins and anticipates reporting a profit this year.

"We're now seeing clear evidence that the second quarter will be a historical inflection point for our business," said Mr Kirby. "It leaves me more optimistic than ever about United's future."

That kind of confidence suggests United Airlines has put the pandemic behind it. While that's some good aviation news, one of the defining features of the travel downturn for the US airline industry was the downsizing of its workforce. US Federal Government funding prevented involuntary layoffs across the industry, but airlines actively encouraged early retirements and voluntary exits.

Airlines caught on the hop by workforce shortages

United Airlines had 87,400 employees on its books as of March 31, 2022, a net loss of 6,000 workers compared to March 31, 2019. None of the big US airlines predicted the swift rebound in demand. Just 12 months ago, while bogged down in another wave of the virus, US airline CEOs warned of dire flying conditions continuing until 2024 or 2025.

Those same CEOs actively trimmed their workforces to reflect this bleak outlook. But a year is a long time in the airline industry, and once again, US airlines are enjoying bumper levels of demand. But workforce shortages have also caught those very same airlines on the hop. While United Airlines has escaped the worst of it, or at least the worst headlines, workforce shortages have contributed to some high-profile operational meltdowns at other US carriers.

Airlines caught on the hop by workforce shortages

United Airlines had 87,400 employees on its books as of March 31, 2022, a net loss of 6,000 workers compared to March 31, 2019. None of the big US airlines predicted the swift rebound in demand. Just 12 months ago, while bogged down in another wave of the virus, US airline CEOs warned of dire flying conditions continuing until 2024 or 2025.

Those same CEOs actively trimmed their workforces to reflect this bleak outlook. But a year is a long time in the airline industry, and once again, US airlines are enjoying bumper levels of demand. But workforce shortages have also caught those very same airlines on the hop. While United Airlines has escaped the worst of it, or at least the worst headlines, workforce shortages have contributed to some high-profile operational meltdowns at other US carriers.

United highlights its workforce diversity

And United is keen to spruik its on-point social credentials by teaming up with OneTen, a non-profit enterprise that focuses on creating and securing long-term jobs for what United terms "Black talent without four-year college degrees." Nothing wrong with that - there are endless high-paying and interesting roles in the airline industry and elsewhere that don't require college degrees.

Joining OneTen will build on our current talent practices to further develop, retain and advance diverse talent to positions across the airline, better reflecting the customers and communities United serves," said Mr Kirby.

United also adds it is the only major US airline to own a flight training school. Opened only last year, the Aviate Academy is already training up its first pilots, 80% of whom are women or people of color. The academy's goal is to train about 5,000 new pilots at the school by 2030, with the goal of at least half women or people of color.

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