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United And Spirit Airlines Giving Staff Extra Pay To Help With Mass Flight Cancellations
The increased demand for holiday travel and surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant have led to a surge in daily flight cancellations. For United and Spirit Airlines, offering staff extra pay is a part of the solution.
United Airlines announced it is offering its pilots triple pay to pick up trips for most of January to help ease staffing shortages.
United and the Air Line Pilots Association reached an agreement for higher pay to cover open trips, Bryan Quigley, United’s senior vice president of flight operations, said Friday in a staff note.
Pilots will be offered three-and-a-half times their pay for flying open trips between Dec. 30 and Jan. 3 and triple pay for picking up trips between Jan. 4 and Jan. 29.
“Due to the rapid spread of the COVID Omicron variant, we are currently seeing record levels of pilot sick calls,” the pilots’ union wrote to its members. “The impact on the operation is clear, and United has experienced a correspondingly large number of cancellations over the past week.”
United’s flight attendants are also getting extra pay to pick up trips and other airlines including JetBlue, American, Southwest and Spirit have also increased crew pay to help avoid additional flight cancellations.
United is following Spirit Airline’s decision of offering extra benefits to its flight attendants. As Reuters reported, they are receiving double pay on any work through Jan. 4.
“All flight attendants, regardless of how you have obtained your pairing, will be receiving 200% pay for any pairing that touches Dec. 28 through Jan. 4,” the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a statement.
Since the start of the pandemic, about 50,000 airline employees have left the industry through retirement or voluntary buyouts. When passenger demand began ramping up last spring, airlines scrambled to bring back workers. But a tight job market made recruiting more difficult, and gaps remain even as thousands of new employees have been hired.