United to close three international flight attendant bases

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Almost all travel experts agree that the recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will start small – road trips close to home, road trips to the United States, domestic air travel, and finally air travel international.But picking up on overseas flights could take months, possibly even extending into the next year before it gets close to “normal.”

United Airlines apparently sees the writing on the wall.

The carrier made a dramatic move, announcing in an internal note seen by CNBC that it will close three of its international flight attendant bases in October in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Frankfurt. The decision will affect approximately 840 flight attendants who work at the three closing bases. United also has international bases in London and Guam.

“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.”

The United Airlines section of the Association of Flight Attendants called the announcement a “shock to all of us” which “will create enormous uncertainty.”

United said in the memo that its flight attendants who call bases in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Frankfurt will have the option of transferring to bases in the United States based on work eligibility.

“Although no other base changes are planned (to) 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.

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