United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby is already warning furloughed employees that United will recall them on a “temporary” basis then furlough them again in March. Demand won’t recover before then and their services are simply not needed. So why exactly are US taxpayers bailing out airlines again instead of providing unemployment benefits and job re-training to the furloughed employees?
United Airlines Will Recall Furloughed Workers….With A Warning
Here’s a snippet of the letter, sent to Live and Let’s Fly by several employees and signed by Kirby and United President Brett Hart:
So what does this mean for us? Well, to start, it means United intends to offer temporary employment to thousands of our team members who were impacted on September 30.
As you know, involuntary furloughs were always a last resort for us and we worked really hard over the summer – through cost-cutting, capital-raising, and partnering with our unions – to make the number of people who were ultimately impacted as small as possible.
Now, those employees who are eligible under the terms of the PSP extension can temporarily come back to United through March 2021. This is certainly good news for our economy, our industry, and our airline – but it’s especially good news for those who have been without a paycheck, and we can’t wait to welcome them back.
Importantly, though, we don’t expect customer demand to change much between now and the end of the first quarter of 2021. United has been realistic about our outlook throughout the crisis, and we’ve tried to give you an honest assessment every step of the way. The truth is, we just don’t see anything in the data that shows a huge difference in bookings over the next few months. That is why we expect the recall will be temporary.
But as we’ve said before, we do see the light at the end of the tunnel. The recent vaccine developments have been nothing short of extraordinary. And we’re so proud of our team for playing an important role in the global distribution of those treatments. But even though vaccinations have started and there are millions of doses being distributed around the country, we’re still months and months away from the majority of the population getting vaccinated.
Kirby’s new nickname should be “Debbie Downer.” When making the media rounds begging for a bailout in order to bring employees back, he never mentioned that an extension to the CARES Act would result in another round of furloughs. Instead, he talked about “keeping all employees” on the payroll:
“What happens is all this critical infrastructure in the United States for airlines and for other degrades. And when the vaccines are out and when it’s time to start the recovery it’s going to take longer for airlines and others to support that recovery. And that recovery won’t be a robust if we don’t keep all the employees here.”
So what is it? We need all the employees here in order to ride the wave of the recovery or what he told employees, that the recalls are actually not needed during this time.
He also added on CNN:
“We’ve done enough; we feel pretty confident to get through. We do see the light at the end of the tunnel because of the great news on the vaccine. I don’t think there will be more furloughs coming forward.”
But I guess he was just already angling for a third bailout and will indeed furlough employees who will now come back at a price of $468,750 per worker for four months.
I’ve praised Kirby throughout the pandemic for being realistic, but April is still a long way away…certainly this year has shown us that. While it is important not to build false-expectations, I read his note to say that the employees who will now be recalled are simply not needed. That is hardly a morale booster, is it? At this point, I’m not even sure it is the bitter truth.
Furloughed airline workers are coming back…for a few months. For many of these workers, this is probably good news and better than nothing. However, in terms effective use of taxpayer money and in terms of what United really needs, this all seems like a fool’s errand…
image: United Airlines