Virus fallout: United scales back flights, institutes hiring freeze
With coronavirus anxiety deflating demand for air travel, United Airlines announced Wednesday it is reducing domestic and international flights as of April -- a move affecting passengers and employees.
Travelers who have booked flights already should learn if their trips are affected Saturday when United makes the changes public.
"When the schedule change goes in on Saturday, our contact center employees will start contacting affected passengers," spokeswoman Leslie Scott said.
The respiratory disease COVID-19, which can cause pneumonia, has spread to 13 states and more than 80 countries as of Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported.
The Chicago-based carrier will decrease flights within the U.S. and to Canada by 10% in April, with further reductions expected in May.
International flights will be downsized by 20% in April, with more to come in May.
"The impact of COVID-19 on our industry both internationally and here in the U.S. continues to evolve rapidly," CEO Oscar Munoz said in a letter. "Lower demand among travelers requires significant changes to our domestic schedule."
The changes also mean a hiring freeze until June 30 or so, some salary increase suspensions, and the airline is inviting employees to apply for unpaid leaves of absence.
"The dynamic nature of this outbreak requires us to be nimble and flexible moving forward," Munoz said.
United recently suspended service to Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Hong Kong as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, which originated in China.