CHICAGO - United Airlines (UAL) plans to furlough 688 flight attendants after it didn't get enough of them to take a voluntary buyout.
The airline has been shrinking a
little, and it announced last year that it is aiming to cut $2 billion in
annual expenses. It has offered voluntary buyouts to flight attendants and some
ground workers were offered early retirement.
At the same time, it is still
operating what amounts to two separate airlines since the 2010 merger with
Continental. Flight attendants still fly separately on the planes that came
from those two airlines.
The airline has had more flight
attendants who came from the United side than it needs, spokeswoman Megan
McCarthy said on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Continental side hired 485 flight
attendants last year.
United has been offering voluntary
furloughs, but many flight attendants who took those in recent years are now
coming back, McCarthy said. The new, involuntary furloughs take effect in April
and are open-ended.
Besides the furloughs, United has
eliminated about 1,250 flight attendant positions through voluntary buyouts or
job shares, McCarthy said. The airline employs about 25,000 fight attendants.
Flying capacity at the combined
airline is down 3 percent since 2010, not counting regional partners.
The Association of Flight
Attendants-CWA said it offered ideas to reduce the need for furloughs.
"What it comes down to is simply
the promise of United's merger not being realized," said Greg Davidowitch,
the head of the union at United.
Shares of Chicago-based United
Continental Holdings Inc. rose 34 cents to $46.84 in afternoon trading.