United Airlines launches new employee exit deals with pay, memo shows

FILE PHOTO: United Airlines agent helps a customer check-in for his flight at O'Hare International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

(Reuters) - United Airlines has offered employees fresh deals with pay and health benefits to leave the company, according to a memo seen by Reuters, part of a drive to reduce headcount and cut costs as it awaits a rebound in pandemic-hit travel demand.

Chicago-based United said on Wednesday that it planned to offer voluntary leave options for employees as part of an effort to cut about $2 billion of annual costs through 2023, but did not provide details.

Asked about the offering, a United spokeswoman said: “Given the continued, near-term variations in travel demand, we’ll look for new ways to give our employees flexibility by introducing voluntary options that help reduce costs and may reduce the number of furloughs of recalled employees.”

United offered a series of voluntary exit packages for frontline employees last year but they did not include pay.

It ended up furloughing around 13,000 employees last October when an initial round of payroll aid for airlines that banned job cuts expired.

It brought back those workers following a fresh $15 billion in payroll aid for the sector late last year, but warned the recall could be “temporary.”

The new voluntary programs include different options focused on pay or health benefits. Each is tailored by age and years of service, according to the memo.

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama/Mark Heinrich