US airlines explore new programs to avoid furloughs

Reuters has reported American Airlines Group (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL.N) and United Airlines Holdings Inc. (UAL.O) are rolling out fresh programs to induce employees to accept voluntary leave or early retirement in the hope of avoiding widespread furloughs in the fall, the news source said.

Around 100,000 employees of American, Delta and United have already accepted offers for temporary or permanent leaves, the companies have said.

Airlines continue to reduce their workforces in an effort to align their businesses with the sharp downfall in air travel. But they are also trying to keep enough workers, particularly pilots whose training is costly and lengthy, to service any recovery.

United is in talks with its labor unions on voluntary options that Kirby said are focused more on the bounce-back than on survivability.

Airlines have said cancellations are slowing and bookings are improving, though their flying schedules are still just about 20% of what they would normally be.

Delta, with around 91,000 employees, announced on Thursday details of an enhanced retirement package for long-term employees and a separate voluntary opt-out package. Both include cash severance, full healthcare coverage and travel benefits, a memo dated May 27 showed.

American Airlines, with more than 100,000 employees, told its management and support staff on Wednesday that it must cut about 30% of their ranks, the same size of reductions planned by United for its management and administrative employees.

American is also discussing voluntary options with unions representing pilots and flight attendants, and Delta with its pilots´ union. Delta´s flight attendants are not unionized.