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United Airlines Will Furlough 1,550 Cabin Crews

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United Airlines has announced plans to reduce its flight attendant work force by 1,550, effective Oct. 31, 2008. The announcement came in a letter issued this morning to the the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing United Airlines cabin crew.

Today’s announcement had been anticipated for many months. United Airlines had suspended recruitment of new flight attendants in March of this year. At that time, the flight attendants’ union was notified that the airline was planning to downsize its fleet. In early June, United Airlines first made public its capacity reduction plans, and offered some of its senior flight attendants an ‘Early Out’ Program that provided incentives to voluntarily separate from the company. Weeks later, United announced that 950 of its pilots would be furloughed in the Fall of 2008.

In accordance with the provisions of the labor contract between United Airlines and the AFA, the airline must first offer voluntary furloughs to its flight attendants before imposing involuntary furloughs. According to the AFA, flight attendants who choose a voluntary furlough will continue to accrue seniority and receive many benefits, including retention of medical and dental benefits as well as travel benefits. Voluntary furloughs of durations ranging from six to 21 months are being offered.

Should fewer than the target number of 1,550 voluntary furloughs be awarded, a secondary method for reducing the number of involuntary furloughs, called the Partnership Flying Program, may be offered in bases with an overage of flight attendants. Partnership Flying, essentially a job-sharing scheme, will be offered only if an overage of flight attendants still exists after all voluntary furloughs have been awarded.

For more information about aspects of the United Airlines flight attendant furloughs, visit the website of AFA’s United Master Executive Council.

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