DENVER (KDVR) — United Airlines is warning of companywide furloughs.
The Colorado Department of Labor said it received notice from United that 2,820 Denver-based employees could be temporarily laid off by Oct. 1, 2020 due to COVID-19. That represents about 40% of the 7,000 United employees who work at Denver International Airport and the airline’s flight training center in Stapleton.
In memo sent to employees, United said the airline industry is experiencing the most disruptive financial crisis in the history of commercial aviation.
Companywide, United warned that 35,902 frontline employees could be furloughed starting Oct. 1.
“It’s an enormous amount, but we have to keep in mind this is just one company,” said aviation expert Steve Cowell. “We have several airlines [in Colorado] and they’re all facing the same [difficulties].”
Cowell worked for United as a contractor in the 1990s. He previously taught pilots at United’s Flight Training Center in Stapleton.
The decisions on who to furlough and who to leave alone are very complicated, according to Cowell.
“It involves training costs, it involves the airplanes that they’re flying on,” he said. “It involves the places that they’re working out of — the various bases.”
United is working to minimize the amount of layoffs and said it is possible the number of employees eventually impacted could be less than what’s currently being predicted. But Cowell says, either way, the future looks grim.
“[We could] easily have 10,000 people on the streets from the airline industry after Oct. 1 — and that’s just here,” Cowell said.
Flight attendants, pilots, technicians and customer service staffers are the groups expected to be hit hardest by the United furloughs.
A federal government stimulus program for airlines prevents United from furloughing before Oct. 1. It’s unclear how long the furloughs would last.
“It’s very possible that a lot of these people will never return to the airline industry,” Cowell said.