Monday, September 29, 2008

United Airlines Lays Off Asian Staff and Replaces With American Crews

Because United Airlines has managed to piss off everyone in America, it is now expanding internationally to touch those in an United Airline way.

All 120 Thai cabin crew on United Airlines (UA) flights through Bangkok have been replaced by US-recruited staff as part of major cutbacks due to continuing high fuel prices and a slump in demand.

Another 100 crew recruited in Singapore have also been laid off as the US airline moves to close its flight attendant bases in Bangkok and Singapore at the end of next month.

The redundancies may reflect a contractual obligation that UA made to its powerful union in the US that foreign nationals based in Asia would be discharged before the airline thins the ranks of its US-based workers, according to airline sources.

Major American airlines are cutting capacity as they cope with high fuel costs and a slowing economy that has prompted companies and families to cut back on air travel.

On Aug 27, UA said it would furlough about 11% of its 14,700 flight attendants in proportion to the flights it had pared from its schedule.

But earlier this week, the Chicago-based carrier scrapped plans to lay off 1,550 US-recruited flight attendants as it shrinks operations and grounds 100 mainly US-operating aircraft. The company said the job cuts were no longer required after enough flight attendants volunteered for unpaid leave that allows them to retain seniority as well as health-care coverage, travel and other benefits.

UA's laid-off Thai staff, some of whom have worked for the airline for more than 20 years and are in their late forties, seem to have accepted redundancy with regret but no complaints.

The airline gave them two years of free UA flights on top of the legally required severance payments.

Thai staff had been informed about the possible lay-off about six months in advance as the airline's management negotiated with the UA union.

UA flight attendants recruited in Bangkok and Singapore were reportedly paid much less and enjoyed fewer benefits than their US-recruited colleagues.

Thai attendants will now be replaced by US-recruited UA staff - a mix of nationalities including Americans, Japanese and a few Thais - on flights to Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Seoul.

UA currently operates Boeing 777 jetliners, which can carry about 270 passengers, on its daily flights between Bangkok and Tokyo. By the end of next month it will replace the jetliners on this route with bigger Boeing 747-400s, with about 340 seats, as a result of revised aircraft utilisation plans and stronger winter-season travel demand.

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