United Airlines and the pilot’s union representing United pilots have inked a wide-ranging deal that will minimize the pain of any involuntary furloughs by preparing pilots to bounce back quickly if demand returns.
Details: United Inks Furlough Deal With Pilots
Last week I noted that pilots had reached a tentative deal with United Airlines to address furloughs. Two agreements were signed, both of which were reviewed by Live and Let’s Fly. The first agreement covers furloughs. The Air Line Pilot’s Association (ALPA) and United struck a clever deal that will keep furloughed pilots trained and keep their benefits in place in hopes that demand will return.
One program offered is called the Voluntary Furlough Plus Program. Under this program, pilots and eligible dependents will continue to receive all active duty benefits. I expect there will be few takers because pilots who are involuntarily furloughed can take part in the Involuntary Furlough Plus Program, which offers the same benefits. Both offer a Furlough Training Program. Pilots will stay active/current by continuing training on United flight simulators. They will be paid for training days, with positive space travel, lodging, and additional per diem included. Participation is voluntary.
The Involuntary Furlough Plus Program is for pilots who are furloughed against their will and includes the same benefits as the Voluntary Furlough Plus Program above. Both programs mandate those pilots are recalled before any new hires are made.
Pilots also have additional options including:
- Voluntary Multi-Month Empty Line Program – no flights, 20 hours of pay in June 2021, continue to accrue seniority and benefits (essentially an extended period of voluntary leave). Limited to 100 pilots.
- Voluntary Half-Month COLA Program – COLA in this case is company-offered leave of absence. This amounts to a half schedule. Pilots will continue to gain seniority and will receive 10 hours of bonus pay in June 2021.
- Voluntary COLA Program – leave of absence for 8-36 months, keep all benefits.
A Special Package For Pilots Nearing Retirement
Meanwhile, United inked a special package for pilots 62 year of age or older who may choose to take an early retirement. While participation in the program is limited, all pilots aged 63 years and older are eligible and those between 62 and 63 years age will be able to opt-in on a space-available basis, as determined by United.
In exchange for giving up the right to return to the skies, a pilot will remain an active employee until their 65th birthday and receive 50 hours of pay per pay period. Sick leave or vacation will not accrue, but seniority will. A pilot is free to seek other employment during this time. United will pay for moving expenses. This option also includes an award of either 250,000 MileagePlus miles or six one-way positive space flight passes. These are higher priority than a typical employee standby ticket and eligible for business class subject to availability on day of travel.
United Airlines and its pilots have reached an agreement that will minimize the pain of furloughs while positioning pilots to be able to quickly bounce back if demand recovers. The new package will likely be more generous than what flight attendants and other United employees are able to reach due to the high costs involved in training pilots. How many pilots are actually furloughed will still depend upon how demand recovers in the weeks ahead.