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United asks pilots to take unpaid leave amid Boeing aircraft shipment delays

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United Airlines is asking pilots to voluntarily take unpaid leave because of reduced flight capacity stemming from delayed shipments of Boeing aircraft

The delayed deliveries come after a slew of safety incidents involving United aircraft that have led the the Federal Aviation Administration to tighten its oversight of the airline. 

"We can confirm that due to the recent delays in Boeing deliveries, our forecasted block hours for 2024 have been reduced and we are offering our pilots voluntary programs for the month of May to reduce excess staffing," United said in a statement to CBS News. 

Currently, United expects to receive 102 fewer planes this year from Boeing, compared to its contract with the manufacturer.

The Air Line Pilots Association, the union representing pilots, said United is asking pilots to take unpaid leaves of absence in May and possibly through the summer, according to a memo shared with CBS News. 

"Due to recent changes to our Boeing deliveries, the remaining 2024 forecast block hours for United have been significantly reduced," the union said in a statement. 

FAA boosting oversight of United Airlines 01:41

Pilots can also opt to fly what is known in the industry as "Empty Line," meaning they request an empty schedule for a month, but may pick up flights if they become available. They would be paid for any flights they take.

Boeing has been grappling with the fallout from an incident in which a door panel on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max aircraft fell off mid-flight. A recent FAA investigation also raised questions about Boeing's manufacturing practices. And in a management shakeup, the company announced in March that CEO Dave Calhoun would step down at the end of 2024 after only four years at the helm.

Experts say Boeing's woes and the tight supply of aircraft could drive up prices for consumers ahead of the busy summer travel season. 

— CBS News' Kris Van Cleave contributed reporting

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