United Airlines cuts capacity by half through at least May

Mar 16, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

United Airlines will slash capacity this spring with CEO Oscar Munoz saying the coronavirus crisis for the carrier is severe and “getting worse.”

The Chicago-based carrier will halve its capacity in April and May with cuts likely to extend into summer, Munoz and United president Scott Kirby told employees in a memo on Sunday night. The airline is also in talks with its labor unions to reduce its payroll, and corporate officers will each take a 50% pay cut.

Details of the capacity cuts will be released on Monday, they said.

Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.

Together, we’re facing an unprecedented challenge,” said Munoz and Kirby. They added that the crisis continues to get worse.

At the beginning of March, United was the first U.S. carrier to cut system capacity as the first signs that domestic air travel would take a hit from the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. However, those initial cuts of up to 20% appear have proved too little based on Munoz and Kirby’s comments and the actions of other airlines in the days since.

On March 14, American Airlines said it would cut international capacity by 75% and U.S. capacity by 20% through May amid the crisis. And Delta Air Lines, on March 13, unveiled a systemwide 40% capacity cut and plans to ground up to 300 aircraft.

Related: United to extend coronavirus-related capacity cuts into summer

These cuts come as other airlines around the world taken even more drastic measures. Royal Jordanian has suspended all of its operations during the second half of March while others, such as SAS Scandinavian Airlines, have suspended the bulk of their flight schedule.

United, in an example of how severe the drop in air travel is, told employees in the memo that it expects passengers in only 20% to 30% of seats on its flights in April and May even after the cuts.

For comparison, the Star Alliance carrier filled 86% of its seats during the three month period from April to June 2019.

Munoz and Kirby did not say what the 50% capacity cuts would mean for United’s fleet. However, based on the plans from American and Delta, the airline is likely to park a significant number of jets.

Related: US airlines could retire older aircraft, focus on newer models due to coronavirus downturn

Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto / Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.