The leaders of United Airlines issued a dire note to the carrier’s 100,000 employees on Wednesday, warning that staffing cuts may be coming and demand for air travel is likely to remain subdued into next year.
“The challenge that lies ahead for United is bigger than any we have faced in our proud 94-year history,” the airline’s chief executive, Oscar Munoz, and president, J. Scott Kirby, wrote in the letter, which was posted on the company’s website.
Traffic in the first two weeks of April was down 97 percent from last year and the airline now expects to fly fewer passengers in all of May than it flew in a single day during the same month last year, the executives wrote. And that decline is expected to last even as health concerns linger and travel restrictions are lifted at different times around the world.
The airline said earlier on Wednesday that it expected to receive $5 billion of federal funding intended to pay airline workers through September, but that stimulus is unlikely to prevent cuts beyond that, the executives warned on Thursday.
“The challenging economic outlook means we have some tough decisions ahead as we plan for our airline, and our overall workforce, to be smaller than it is today, starting as early as October 1,” they said.