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United Airlines to Recall All Furloughed Pilots
United Airlines announced yesterday it will recall all of its furloughed pilots — nearly 600. The announcement bodes well for those who predict a pilot shortage, though experts stress that this does not necessarily signal growth for the troubled airline industry.
The recalls will fill expected staffing needs caused by retirements and new duty-time rules, according to a United release. Still, the move indicates that the supply of experienced pilots is paring down. United furloughed approximately 1,000 of its 12,000 pilots after the economic downturn of 2008.
Returning pilots will begin training programs next month, and are expected to be back flying the line by the end of the year. When United and Continental merged in 2010, they also combined the two airlines' pilot seniority lists, a common occurrence when airlines merge. The seniority list is the basis for preference in schedules and promotions among an airline's flight crew members.
The announcement was welcomed by the Air Line Pilots Association. Its United branch leadership council chairman Captain Jap Heppner said, "We welcome our brother and sister pilots back with open arms. We have worked toward this day for more than five years."
United's senior vice president of flight operations Howard Attarian issued this statement: "We look forward to welcoming back our co-workers as we complete work to integrate all of our pilots into a single work group. We are pleased to have this group of talented aviators back on our team."