Thousands of jobs have been cut at the world’s biggest travel companies, and it’s only Tuesday

Stuck on the ground.
Stuck on the ground.
Image: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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Some 3,400 management and administration jobs are to be cut at United Airlines. More than 3,000 positions are being eliminated at Virgin Atlantic. And nearly 1,900 roles are gone at Airbnb.  These are the first of a wave of deep cuts expected to be announced by some of the biggest players in global travel this week, as an already floundering industry faces many more months of difficulty.

Formerly profitable companies now have little padding left to weather these continuing knocks and bumps. In an email to staff announcing the layoffs, Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO, said the company faced two challenging truths: “We don’t know exactly when travel will return,” and “when travel does return, it will look different.” Departing staff would be allowed to keep their Apple laptops as a token of goodwill, he added.

Over the last two months of the crisis, some companies have used staff furloughs as an interim solution: At Delta, thousands of flight attendants and pilots saw their hours (and pay) cut by 25%, with more than 21,000 employees volunteering for various lengths of unpaid leave. But the scale of the losses now appears to demand greater action: At United, the airline announced yesterday that 30% of roughly 11,500 management and administrative employees would lose their jobs in early October, with a formal announcement to come in July. The airline has also encouraged rank-and-file employees to consider a “voluntary separation,” as it prepares to cut May and June flights by about 90%.

Cuts at Virgin Atlantic, which seeks a bailout from the UK government, are just one small part of what Brian Strutton, the general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, described as a “tsunami of job losses” in the UK aviation industry, following 3,000 job cuts at budget carrier Ryanair last week. British Airways is expected to announce the elimination of as many as 12,000 jobs in the next week.