United Airlines on Thursday told staff it will soon begin hiring hundreds of pilots — a process the airline was forced to halt when coronavirus pandemic devastated travel demand last year, according to an internal email reviewed by CNBC.
The Chicago-based airline is the first of the large U.S. carriers to announce it will resume pilot hiring, the latest sign it’s preparing for a recovery. For the past year, airlines, including United, have urged thousands of workers to take buyouts, early retirement packages and leaves of absence as they raced to cut costs during the pandemic.
U.S. airlines together lost $35 billion last year but expect a steady rise in bookings as more of the public is vaccinated and feels more comfortable getting on planes.
“With vaccination rates increasing and travel demand trending upwards, I’m excited to share that United will resume the pilot hiring process that was halted last year,” Bryan Quigley, United’s senior vice president of flight operations, wrote in a staff note on Thursday that was viewed by CNBC. “We’ll start with the approximately 300 pilots who either had a new hire class date that was canceled, or who had a 2020 conditional job offer.”
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