United to cut 950 pilots as airline grounds jets


CHICAGO ― United Airlines is eliminating nearly 1,000 pilots as part of its overall cutback strategy that includes grounding several gas-guzzling jets.

The airline plans to eliminate about 950 pilots, in addition to earlier cutbacks among management ranks. The cuts represent about 12 percent of the total number of pilots employed by United.

United is also eliminating as many as 1,600 salaried and management jobs, with many of the cuts hitting its corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago.

“As we reduce the size of our fleet and take actions company-wide to enable United to compete in an environment of record fuel prices, we must take the difficult, but necessary step to reduce the number of people we have to run our business; and today, we notified our pilots about expected furloughs, said United spokeswoman Robin Janikowsi.

United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy says the initial furlough notices will go out in mid-July and take effect in September. She says the cuts will continue into next year.

Earlier this month the airline said it was removing 70 fuel-guzzling airplanes from its fleet and slashing domestic capacity as it tries to cope with spiraling fuel prices.
United said it plans to ground its entire fleet of 94 Boeing B737s as well as six of the company’s 747s-its oldest and least fuel-efficient planes. It previously said it was going to mothball 30 of the jets. It is also scrapping its coach-only “Ted” service and reconfiguring those planes to include first-class seats.

And the Chicago-based carrier will cut mainline domestic capacity by 17 to 18 percent in 2009, while also scaling back international capacity by 4 to 5 percent.

The nation’s airlines are struggling amid the record-high fuel prices and slashing capacity and jobs while charging customers extra fees.

American Airlines announced last month that it would cut workers and slash its domestic flight capacity by 11 percent to 12 percent in the fourth quarter, after the peak summer season is over. The carrier was previously planning a 4.6 percent cut.

And the subsidiary of AMR Corp. said it would charge passengers $15 for the first checked bag.

Meanwhile Delta Air Lines Inc. is reducing capacity and trimming thousands of jobs.