United plans to close three overseas flight attendant bases as international travel suffers

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A Boeing 777-222 (ER) passenger plane belonging to United Airlines which takes off from Hong Kong International Airport on August 08, 2018 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

Marcio Rodrigo | Getty Images

United Airlines plans to close three of its four foreign flight attendant bases in October as international air travel continues to suffer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chicago-based airline will close bases in Hong Kong, Tokyo Narita Airport and Frankfurt, according to a memo read by CNBC. United said that about 840 flight attendants work at the three bases that are closing.

“It was certainly a very difficult decision to make, and we recognize that closing any base makes it difficult for those living near these locations,” said John Slater, executive vice president of flight services for United, in the note. “In the current and future environment, we are simply unable to maintain a flight base at these locations. “

Flight attendants at these locations will have the option of transferring to US bases, depending on work eligibility, the note said.

United also has a base for flight attendants at London Heathrow Airport and a base for the United States of Guam.

“Although no other basic changes are planned [at] this time we will continue to assess the viability of all sites based on the network schedule, government travel restrictions and restored demand, “said Slater.

The United Chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents the airline’s approximately 24,000 cabin crew members, called the announcement “shock to all of us” and said “it will create enormous uncertainty” .

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