United has formally warned 36,000 U.S.-based employees of potential furloughs when Cares Act payroll assistance expires on Oct. 1. 

Some 45% of the carrier’s frontline U.S. employees were given the warning, including 15,000 flight attendants, 11,000 customer service and gate agents, 5,500 aircraft maintenance workers, 2,250 pilots, 1,000 contact center employees, 800 caterers and 225 network operations employees. 

United executives cautioned Wednesday morning that not all of those 36,000 employees will necessarily be furloughed. The final number will be impacted by passenger demand and the number of employees who accept voluntary leave. Thus far, approximately 3,700 frontline domestic employees have taken voluntary leave, which offers extended separation benefits, including health insurance and free flights. 

The large majority of unionized United employees would have the right to return to work when demand returns, but United executives said that furloughs will be indefinite in length. The carrier said that employees who are furloughed will be informed in August. 

The warnings, which are required under federal law, were issued to employees as demand at United has once again dipped, likely affected by a surge in Covid-19 infections in the U.S. 

In a regulatory filing Tuesday, United said that domestic quarantine rules recently put in place in the Northeast are exacerbating the problem. In Newark, United’s domestic bookings for the seven days that ended July 1 were down 84% year-over-year compared with a domestic decline of 73% nationwide. The carrier expects a similar impact in Chicago, where a domestic quarantine order impacting visitors from 15 states took effect Monday. 

In the Tuesday filing, United announced plans to temper its capacity ramp-up. The carrier now plans to fly 40% of its 2019 domestic capacity in August, down from the 48% it announced just a week earlier. United doesn’t expect that 40% figure to increase in the foreseeable future. 

United stressed that the airline has sought to limit furloughs as much as possible. Along with the voluntary-leave program, United has offered a short-term, unpaid-leave program, which has been taken up by tens of thousands of employees. 

In addition, the airline announced last month that it would cut its management and administrative staff by 30%, amounting to 2,700 jobs. United employs 95,000 people globally. 

The carrier has aggressively raised capital, including $6.8 billion in loans completed this month, $3.8 billion of which was backed by the Mileage Plus loyalty program.

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