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Major US airline operator United Airlines has announced its plans to slash its flights in May by 90% due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

This decision to reduce its flying network comes only a day after accepting payroll assistance from the US Government’s coronavirus bailout package.

The carrier has also warned of further capacity and staffing reduction in June.

In a message to the employees, United Airlines Holdings CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby wrote: “Travel demand is essentially zero and shows no sign of improving in the near term.

“While we have not yet finalised changes to our schedule for July and August, we expect demand to remain suppressed for the remainder of 2020 and likely into next year.”

The executives added: “The challenging economic outlook means we have some tough decisions ahead as we plan for our airline, and our overall workforce, to be smaller than it is today, starting as early as October 1.”

The airlines are facing challenges due to travel restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. Funds provided in the US stimulus package, which was signed into law in March, will only help airlines to pay the wages to their employees while compelling them not to axe jobs through 30 September.

United will draw $5bn as grants and a low-interest loan. This amount forms part of a $25bn package for airlines given out by the US Treasury.

More than 20,000 employees of the airline have accepted voluntary leave and separation programmes in recent weeks.

The airline had a workforce of 95,000 at the beginning of the year. It plans to encourage more workers to accept these programmes.

Later last month, US carrier Alaska Airlines revealed plans to reduce operations for April and May by approximately 70%, as there is an unprecedented reduction in the passenger traffic due to the pandemic.

Global confirmed cases on coronavirus have reached 2,064,815 while the death toll stands at 137,078.