United Airlines to initially hire 300 new pilots as travel demand rebounds

FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines passenger jet takes off with New York City as a backdrop, at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

(Reuters) - United Airlines on Thursday said it would hire about 300 pilots as travel demand rebounds as a rising number of Americans get COVID-19 vaccination, according to the company’s internal memo seen by Reuters.

United, which has more than 12,000 pilots, will hire pilots who either had a new hire class date that was canceled or a 2020 conditional job offer. Congress in March approved a six-month extension of a government program that gives airlines significant payroll assistance.

Since September 2020, almost 1,000 United pilots have either retired or participated in voluntary leave programs but the airline said “the number of new pilots needed will be dependent on our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

United Chief Executive Scott Kirby said on a U.S. aviation summit on Wednesday that domestic leisure demand “has almost entirely recovered.”

Reporting by Shreyasee Raj in Bengaluru, David Shepardson in Washington and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Aurora Ellis