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United to reduce staffing on many flights beginning in July

May 19, 2020
3 min read
United to reduce staffing on many flights beginning in July
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As with their counterparts around the world, U.S. airlines are in serious financial trouble following a severe drop in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite essential support provided by the CARES Act.

United Airlines alone lost more than $2 billion in the first quarter of the year, even with passenger numbers remaining somewhat consistent until March. As a result, we're likely to see even more significant losses for the second quarter, including unprecedented year-over-year passenger drops for April, May and almost certainly June.

As a result, United is continuing to search for opportunities to trim expenses — now, beginning July 1, the airline will reduce the headcount on some of its flights. John Slater, United's head of inflight services, shared a memo with employees on Tuesday detailing the changes, which will impact both domestic and international flights.

United is limiting its flight attendant count on some domestic and international flights. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Most flights with the U.S. will operate as they currently do, since they're already staffed at the minimum level required by the FAA. But those flights that are currently staffed above FAA minimums will be adjusted down to meet (but not exceed) federal mandates. In many cases, customers won't notice any change — on the Boeing 737-800, for example, United currently staffs each domestic leg with four flight attendants, and will continue to do so moving forward.

International flights will be staffed just over FAA minimums, with one extra flight attendant. United will add another flight attendant once the passenger load reaches 80% in economy, which matches the current policy. Many international passengers will likely be traveling on a Boeing 787-9 or 787-10 Dreamliner. Moving forward, both aircraft will be staffed with eight flight attendants on international routes, or nine if at least 80% of seats are occupied in economy.

Slater told employees the changes are part of "our need to be more aggressive than ever before in controlling our costs and the many steps we are taking across the company to do that."

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"Staffing more closely to FAA minimums is one of those realities," he added.

Onboard responsibilities have already been adjusted for crew members on many flights. Buy onboard items are not currently available and service has been reduced in premium cabins, on both domestic and international trips, impacting each flight attendant's workload.

Additionally, while United hasn't matched airlines like Alaska and Delta in capping passenger capacity, the airline has implemented several measures to help reduce the number of passengers onboard, including notifying customers booked on flights where at least 70% of passengers have checked in, giving them a free option to change, and capping non-revenue passengers on all flights.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more