“Our members understood that in order to protect pilot jobs, we needed to approve this agreement,” said Capt. Todd Insler, chairman of the United Air Line Pilots Association master executive council. “I am proud of our pilots for showing the unity and resolve needed in the face of uncertainty.”
Under the agreement, existing hours will be spread across the pilot group, which means most pilots will temporarily work fewer days and make less money. But the deal ensures that all 13,000 United pilots will keep their jobs, Insler said.
Without the deal, roughly 2,800 United pilots would have been furloughed this year and an additional 1,100 risked being furloughed in 2021.
The announcement comes as airline executives and workers continue to pressure Congress to reach a deal to extend payroll support for front line workers through the end of March. If no agreement is reached more, than 33,000 airline employees will be furloughed Thursday.
There is widespread bipartisan agreement for extending the aid to airlines, but negotiations have been stymied by differences over whether the measure should be a stand-alone bill or part of a larger package.
The letter of agreement signed by the union and the airline prevents any pilot furloughs until June 2021. In addition, the deal creates a second round of “early separation” options for pilots older than 50 and who have 10 years of experience.
Delta Air Lines and its pilots recently reached an agreement to delay decisions on possible furloughs of more than 1,900 until Nov. 1. At American Airlines, more than 1,600 pilots face the possibility of being furloughed Oct. 1.
In an appearance on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, American Chief Executive Doug Parker said an extension is needed to ensure that the industry is positioned to resume flying once travelers return.
“Once we furlough those employees it’s really hard, for example, to get pilots back in training,” Parker said. “So once we’ve furloughed and shrunk airlines, our ability to continue provide services needed to pull the economy back out of this is going to be severely hampered."