United Airlines said Thursday it is bringing nearly 600 pilots back to
work who have been on furlough for five years.
The Chicago-based airline, the world's largest, said the move wipes clean its slate of furloughed pilots. At its peak, the airline had more than 1,400 pilots on furlough.
The recession not only forced massive airline layoffs but also put many of these experienced employees on furlough lists that lasted for years, in some cases. Some airline workers found work elsewhere during the furlough period, so they're not available for recall.
United is nearly ready to merge the two groups of pilots from the old United and Continental Airlines, which combined in 2010. It was announced Wednesday that the two groups now have a joint union contract ready and a combined list from which to determine seniority.
Captain Jay Heppner, chairman of the United Master Executive Council, said the union has looked forward to the recalls.
"The recall of these pilots offers further proof that we stand at a new beginning for this pilot group," he said in a statement. "I am secure in the knowledge that our furloughed pilots will be returning to a much better contract and to an airline with a brighter and more confident future."
Training classes for the recalled pilots will begin next month and run through the end of the year. United has a total of about 12,000 pilots.
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