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Struggling United to lay off 2,700 flight attendants


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CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- United Airlines will lay off 2,700 flight attendants in January because of the financially struggling carrier's decreased flight schedule, the company announced Friday.

The latest round of cutbacks brings the number of layoffs by United to nearly 4,000 in just the last three weeks, on top of 2,100 flight attendants already on voluntary furlough.

"United sincerely regrets the necessity of making this decision because of the impact it will have on our employees, their families and their communities," Larry De Shon, United's senior vice president for onboard service, said in a statement.

"As part of our recovery plan, United has previously announced it will reduce capacity, and that, unfortunately, means we will need fewer flight attendants."

The layoffs, which will take effect January 31, are in addition to 2,100 flight attendants currently on voluntary furlough, according to the Association of Flight Attendants. Chicago-based United, the No. 2 U.S. carrier, has 24,000 flight attendants.

United has been negotiating with five of its labor unions, including the flight attendants, on a package of cost reductions designed to save $5.8 billion over five and a half years and secure $1.8 billion in federal loan guarantees under a program set up after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The airline has already won concessions from its pilots, including an 18 percent pay cut.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, Sara Dela Cruz, said the new cuts were not discussed during negotiations.

"We are going to do everything we can to avoid impact of this involuntary furlough," she said.

Last month, the struggling airline announced it was laying off 1,250 maintenance, customer service and reservations employees, as well as closing three reservations centers and shifting service in five cities to its affiliated commuter airlines.

The airline industry has been hemorrhaging money since the terrorist attacks. Demand for air travel has not fully bounced back, and airlines are also bearing the costs of additional security measures that have also discouraged some Americans from flying.

In October, United announced a third-quarter loss of more than $500 million. The company warned in August that without aggressive cost-cutting measures, it could be forced into bankruptcy.



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