August 15, 2020

As the Pandemic Forced Layoffs, C.E.O.s Gave Up Little

The price of many stocks fell sharply this spring when the pandemic took hold. But stocks can recover over time, and many have soared since March.

As it became clear that the pandemic was going to devastate the economy and their businesses, many boards and chief executives appeared to sense a need to tell workers and investors that they were sharing in the pain.

United Airlines said the executives’ salary cuts were a recognition of the impact of the pandemic and “to lead by example.” United, which has been hit hard by a plunge in demand for air travel, is expected to start furloughing up to 36,000 workers on Oct. 1. Oscar Munoz, who in May became United’s executive chairman after serving as chief executive, did not get salary from March 10 through June 30, which amounted to a $610,000 pay cut on the $2 million salary he is being paid this year. But the reduction was a little less than 3 percent of the $22.2 million Mr. Munoz took home in 2019.

United’s new chief executive, J. Scott Kirby, will give up around $790,000 of salary this year. That is equivalent to 9 percent of the $8.7 million that CGLytics estimates he received last year. United said that it was “extremely unlikely” that it would make 2020 bonus payments, which it planned to set at 250 percent of salary, to its top executives.

Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, took a salary cut of around $714,000, or 5.35 percent of the total compensation he received in 2019, according to CGLytics. A Delta representative said the decline in Delta’s stock price and difficulties ahead for the airline would weigh heavily on the value of Mr. Bastian’s pay. The spokesman, Trebor Banstetter, said the value of Mr. Bastian’s total compensation this year was likely to be down 58 percent from “pre-pandemic projections,” but he did not provide details of how the company arrived at that figure. Delta is asking its pilots to take pay cuts in order to keep their jobs.

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