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United Airlines is offering its pilots unpaid time off in May. The opportunity may also be extended throughout the summer and into the fall. As reported by CNBC News, the United Airlines branch of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), has cited Boeing delivery delays as the reason behind the move.

With fewer aircraft coming into the fleet than expected, offering unpaid time off to a certain number of its pilots will allow United Airlines to save money on salary costs at a time when fewer pilots are needed. This situation is in stark contrast to three years ago at the start of the post-pandemic recovery, when carriers across the world were crying out for more pilots to meet the rapidly increasing demand for air travel.

When approached for comments by Simple Flying, United Airlines confirmed the move, saying,

We can confirm that due to the recent delays in Boeing deliveries, our forecasted block hours for 2024 have been reduced, and we are offering our pilots voluntary programs for the month of May to reduce excess staffing.”

One of Boeing’s largest customers

As one of Boeing’s largest customers, United Airlines is undoubtedly one of the carriers that has been most affected by the delivery delays. However, due to their reliance on Boeing aircraft, other airlines may also soon find themselves in a similarposition, such as Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Meanwhile, the likes of American Airlines and Delta Air Lines operate a more varied fleet, with a significant number of Airbus aircraft, making them less exposed to the delays at Boeing. For example, with the exception of the 737 MAX 10, all of Delta Air Lines’ currently planned future aircraft deliveries will come from Airbus, including the A220, A321neo, A330neo, and A350.

Changing growth plans

The delays have forced United Airlines to reconsider its growth plans. Last month, the carrier told Boeing to focus on building more 737 MAX 9 aircraft instead of the 737 MAX 10, which has yet to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Data from ch-aviation shows that United Airlines currently has 86 737 MAX 8s and 79 737 MAX 9s in its fleet, with a further 40 and 31 of the aircraft on order, respectively. The carrier will become the launch customer of the 737 MAX 10, and has a staggering 277 of the type on order.

From January’s high-profile Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 incident to a series of minor incidents over recent weeks, 2024 has got off to a challenging start for Boeing. The impact of the ongoing crisis has been felt strongly, with the manufacturer’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, announcing last week that he would be stepping down at the end of the year as part of a major leadership shake-up.

Source: https://simpleflying.com/delayed-boeing-deliveries-causes-united-airlines-pilots-to-take-unpaid-time-off/