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Clarification on furloughs

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Earl Williams

Well-known member
Mar 17, 2002
I apologize for being so ignorant in regards to the concept of furloughs, but I had a question. I've gathered that a furlough isn't like being permanently let go from your job...more of a temporary thing (or, at least, I think it's supposed to be temporary?). Also, I know that, upon getting furloughed, you can't exactly expect your company to answer "okay, how long do you think I'll be on furlough before you call me back?". As a rule of thumb, is there a "standard" amount of time that one kind of gives up on ever getting called back from their previous employer, and starts looking elsewhere? Or do you pick up a side job in the meantime and just wait it out?

It just seems like such a $%^& concept to be told "we'll call you back when we need you". I guess life isn't fair...but that just plain sucks! I can't say I've ever heard of a furlough in industries outside of aviation. I know in my business, you're either employed with a company, or not employed.

Anyhow, thanks for the clarification...and again I apologize for my lack of knowledge on this subject. I realize there's a bunch of qualified, PROFESSIONAL pilots that are furloughed right now, and I certainly don't want to touch on a sore subject. For everyone out there that IS on furlough, I wish you all the best in being recalled, or whatever next steps you chose in your aviation career.

Thanks again,
It definitely sucks to be furloughed, but it's nice to have recall rights and seniority protection. It's not exactly a %$^&* concept where they tell you "we'll call you back when we need you". Some (if not all) contracts specify a period of years that a pilot retains recall rights. They also specify exactly how and in what order furloughs due to a reductiion in flying are to take place and what rights the pilots on furlough retain; as well as how and in what order recalls are to be issued.

Without this "concept", a company could/would just terminate whatever number of pilots were required for their reduced operations, then when things picked back up, re-hire whichever ones (if any) they wanted to, in whatever order they wanted to. Or simply hire new pilots off the street (at entry level wages).
The fulough is definitely not a lame concept. I think you're thinking of a furlough as being quasi-employed. This is not true. When you are on furlough, you are not obligated to the airline in any way. You can go work as many other jobs as your heart desires. It is like being laid off, except that you are almost guaranteed that you can have your job back when things turn around if you want to go back. I know my airline gives us recall rights for five years. In fact, you can even decline a recall until all pilots underneath you have been recalled, at which point they tell you to either come back or resign.

You are correct in that most industries do not offer these provisions. They can lay off anyone they want regardless of how long they've been with the company and replace them with recent college grads at 1/3 the price.
Thanks...I think I get it now

I guess I was under the assumption that once you were furloughed, you either had to wait for that airline to call you back, or if you did decide to fly for another company, you were immediately terminated by your former employer. I assumed that unions wouldn't allow that to be the case...which is obviously good! And seniority protection is a big key as well.

Thanks for clearing the issue up!

Actually, if you fly for another organization while on furlough, it is up to the NEW company about your furlough status.

For example, if you are furloughed from American, and you get hired by EJA (a fractional operator), you are required to resign your seniority with American. That's why most major airline guys WON'T fly for someone else, unless they think the newer airline is a lot better, or they're afraid their old airline will go under.

Sometimes, or with certain operations, the new company will let you retain your seniority and recall rights at the airline you're furloughed from. For example, I believe that some of the feeders for their majors are letting some/all of the pilots from their major work for them while retaining their seniority.

You are free to get an non-flying job, but sometimes that's difficult too, as they don't want to hire a furloughee who will leave in a short time to go back to their airline.

Note: I've read that some USAir guys were furloughed for 8 years previously!!!


so is it looked down upon (by the company that furloughed you) that you're working for another airline, and have submitted to them a letter of resignation (even if they don't accept it?) I can't see how it would be...I mean, people do have bills to pay! Also, I would think that company would understand that a pilot needs to maintain his/her currency, and proficiency. Can't exactly go rent a C-172 and practice touch-and-go's to maintain proficiency when you're flying a 737!

I guess it all depends on what airline you're flying for as to what recall rights, seniority protection you have? Something tells me a furloughee from a small cargo opp would have less rights than someone at a major???? Or do most companies have silimiar policies?

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