A global airline with a massive presence in Houston is taking drastic measures this week in light of the coronavirus phenomenon. United Airlines — which boasts a major hub in Houston — announced that it will cut 50 percent of its flight capacity in April and May. The decrease may extend into peak travel season this summer; planes may be at 20 percent to 30 percent full.
United will also look to the federal government for assistance as it experiences a major downturn in bookings.
The news comes via a letter from United CEO, Oscar Munoz, and J. Scott Kirby, president, addressed to almost 100,000 United Airlines employees. The two leaders project that United revenue in March will be $1.5 billion lower than last March. Meanwhile, United estimates that 1 million fewer passengers flow in the first two weeks of March than in 2019.
“The bad news is that it's getting worse,” they wrote. “We expect both the number of customers and revenue to decline sharply in the days and weeks ahead.”
The cuts extend to staff: United corporate officers will see their salaries cut by 50 percent, according to the letter. Talks are ongoing with the airlines pilots and flight attendants — via their unions – over schedule cuts.
United’s management cited moves by Delta, which announced a 40 percent reduction in schedule, and American Airlines, which will lower international capacity by 75 percent.
“Together, we're facing an unprecedented challenge,” the letter continues. “When medical experts say that our health and safety depends on people staying home and practicing social distancing, it's nearly impossible to run a business whose shared purpose is, ‘Connecting people. Uniting the world.’”