Crain’s Headlines: Coronavirus Creates More Turbulence for United Airlines

The impact of the coronavirus on United Airlines is getting more serious.

In the wake of a decision to pare the number of flights to Asia, the Chicago-based carrier is offering pilots who normally fly those routes the option of receiving reduced pay while not flying. United also postponed a class of 23 new pilots that was due to start this week.

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Until now, United has been able to absorb much of the impact of the coronavirus, which first broke out in China late last year, by moving aircraft and personnel to other routes. But the latest moves show the rapidly spreading impact of the virus into Europe and now to the U.S. is becoming more of a management challenge for the airline.

CEO Oscar Munoz said Saturday that United is now strategically managing its Atlantic and domestic service, and noted that, based on current trends, it is likely that additional schedule reductions like the one the airline made in Asia last month will be necessary.

In other Chicago-area business news:

Related Midwest, the real estate developer that has taken over the Streeterville parcel best known as the site of the unbuilt Chicago Spire project, is getting ready to unveil a new proposal for the star-crossed project.

Related had previously pitched a big, two-tower project for the site at the intersection of Lake Shore Drive and the Chicago River, but that plan was shot down by the local alderman, Brendan Reilly. The developer went back to the drawing board, dropped its plans for a hotel there, and has cut the proposed height of the project. Under the new proposal, the two residential buildings will rise 875 feet and 765 feet respectively, down from 1,100 feet and 850 feet in the original proposal.

No word yet on whether the alderman will bless this latest blueprint.

And finally, Monday marks the beginning of a new phase of the fast-food breakfast wars. Wendy’s on Monday morning officially rolled out its new breakfast menu, featuring an offering called the Breakfast Baconator as well as a slew of other sandwiches.

McDonald’s isn’t ceding any ground to the breakfast newcomer, however. The Chicago fast-food giant declared Monday National Egg McMuffin Day, offering anyone with its app a free Egg McMuffin and promoting value deals such as 2 for $4 dollar offers on its Sausage McMuffin with Egg, the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit, and Bacon, Egg & Cheese McGriddles.

Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King and even Einstein Bros. Bagels are also getting into the act, unveiling their own special offers in an effort to steal thunder from Wendy’s.

Crain’s Headlines is a joint production between WTTW and Crain’s Chicago Business. It airs every Monday through Thursday on the WTTW News program “Chicago Tonight.” 

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