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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo: John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

United Airlines said Wednesday it expects to cut 16,370 jobs on Oct. 1, far fewer than the 36,000 it warned of two months ago, as suspense builds over whether Congress will extend relief for the struggling airline industry.

Between the lines: United was able to limit the layoffs by cutting costs, raising debt and encouraging tens of thousands of employees to participate in a variety of voluntary leave, early retirement and reduced hours programs.

  • Airport operations employees, for example, can take a voluntary paid leave for 12 months — at 25% pay, plus health benefits — but can be called back at any time with 14 days' notice.
  • Flight attendants can take an eight- or 13-month leave, with health benefits, but can pick up occasional flights when available.
  • Such voluntary programs give employees flexibility but will help the company bounce back faster, a spokesman said.

What they're saying: "The pandemic has drawn us in deeper and lasted longer than almost any expert predicted, and in an environment where travel demand is so depressed, United cannot continue with staffing levels that significantly exceed the schedule we fly," the company said in an email to employees.

  • "Sadly, we don’t expect demand to return to anything resembling normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine."
  • "An extension [of the CARES Act] would be the one thing that would prevent involuntary furloughs on October 1 and hopefully delay any potential impact on employees until early 2021."

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the travel sector — including airlines, hotels, conventions and events. A $25 billion aid package that protects airline jobs expires Sept. 30, but Congress is negotiating another round of stimulus that could extend that relief.

Go deeper

Nov 21, 2020 - Economy & Business

Airlines plot course for coronavirus survival

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Ann Ronan Pictures, Bettmann/Getty Images

With the coronavirus pandemic worsening and no more help in sight from the U.S. government, airlines and airports are scrambling to survive the worst crisis in aviation history.

Why it matters: Promising vaccines offer hope for a recovery, but not until large swaths of the global population are immunized, and that could take years. To get people flying again, airlines are pushing testing and rethinking the travel experience.

Nov 21, 2020 - Economy & Business

Some air travelers pay premium for social distancing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Business travel remains depressed during the pandemic, but some airlines are seeing more leisure travelers in their first-class cabins.

Why it matters: Many people are avoiding air travel during the public health crisis, fearful they'll catch COVID-19 from a nearby passenger. But for those who can afford it, premium class seats offer more comfort and perhaps a little extra breathing room.

Bipartisan group of senators seeks coronavirus stimulus deal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At least eight Republican and Democratic senators have formed an informal working group aimed at securing new coronavirus spending during the lame-duck session, a move favored by President-elect Biden, two sources familiar with the group tell Axios.

Why it matters: It may be the most significant bipartisan step toward COVID relief in months.

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