United Airlines is planning to furlough 3,900 pilots, an increase from the 2,250 expected in early July before the latest spike in US coronavirus cases.

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The Senior Vice President for flight operations, Bryan Quigley, stated in a memo to staff that, “Because COVID-19 cases continue, and demand improvement remains very slow, we may need to furlough more pilots in 2020, and in 2021, than originally planned,”

Quigley said total revenues for United Airlines is down about 85 per cent. The company expects to end the third quarter with a daily cash burn of $25 million per day.

“This is simply not sustainable for us,” Quigley said.

United has previously said it does not expect airline travel demand to get above 50 per cent of pre-coronavirus levels until a vaccine is found and widely available.

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The company’s Chief Executive Scott Kirby revealed last week that he is planning for this outcome until late 2021.

Unions for airline workers are lobbying for additional funds from Congress to support jobs in the industry.

Quigley pointed to those efforts, adding that the “only other way to mitigate furloughs is through a negotiated agreement with our unions to reduce the costs until we see a return of demand to our business.”