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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.