United to Close Three International Flight Attendant Bases

United to Close Three International Flight Attendant Bases
© United Airlines United flight attendants walk through Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport
By Rich Thomaselli, TravelPulse

Virtually all travel experts agree that the recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will start small – road trips close to home, road trips in the U.S., domestic air travel, and, lastly, international air travel.

But getting back to overseas flights could take months, perhaps even carry into next year before it gets close to ‘normal.’

United Airlines apparently sees the writing on the wall.

The carrier has made a dramatic move, announcing in an internal memo 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 about 840 flight attendants who work in the three bases that are closing. United also has international bases in London and Guam.

“This was certainly a very difficult decision to make, and we recognize that closing any base places a hardship on those who live near those locations,” John Slater, United’s senior vice president of inflight services, said in the memo. “In the current and future environment, we simply are not able to sustain an Inflight Base at these locations.”

The United Airlines chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants called the announcement “a shock for all of us” that “will create tremendous uncertainty.”

United said in the memo its flight attendants who call bases in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Frankfurt home will be given the chance to transfer to bases in the U.S. depending on work eligibility.

“While no other base changes are anticipated (at) this time, we’ll continue to evaluate the viability of all locations based on the network schedule, government travel restrictions, and restoration of demand,” Slater said.

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