United Airlines could be forced to furlough as many as 36,000 employees in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Throughout this crisis, we have been honest and direct with you about our need to right-size our workforce to match travel demand,” the carrier said in a statement to staff.

The figure accounts for nearly half of the front-line team at the United States-based carrier.

United said it expects capacity for this month to be down 75 per cent compared to July last year.

“Our primary goal throughout this crisis has been to ensure United – and the jobs it supports – are here when customers are flying again,” United Airlines said in a statement to employees.

The company advised that not everyone who receives a warning letter will definitely be furloughed.

The final number depending on whether trading conditions improve and how many workers accept offers of redundancy and temporary leave.

The United States government has offered $50 billion to support the airline industry, which, in turn, has agreed to not lay off staff or cut pay until September 30th.

In response to the announcement the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union said: “The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we have seen on the state of the industry.”

Last week, American Airlines said it could have 20,000 more front-line workers than it needs to operate, but that not all of them would be furloughed in October.