May 27 (UPI) -- Boeing said Wednesday it is laying off more than 6,000 employees in the first phase of its plans to reduce its workforce by 10 percent as the airline industry reels from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to employees, Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun said the first 6,770 workers to be involuntarily laid off under the reductions are being notified by the aviation giant this week.
"We will provide all the support we can to those of you impacted by the [layoffs] -- including severance pay, COBRA healthcare coverage for U.S. employees and career transition services," he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a "devastating impact" on the airline industry, the CEO said, resulting in deep reductions in the number of commercial jets and services that Boeing's airline customers will need "over the next few years."
"I wish there were some other way," he said of the layoffs.
Boeing last month said it is seeking to shed 10 percent of its worldwide workforce of around 160,000 through a combination of voluntary and involuntary layoffs and early retirements.
More than 5,000 additional Boeing employees have been approved for voluntary separations.
In addition to the air travel disruptions caused by the pandemic, Boeing has been suffering financially since its fleet of 737 Max jetliners was grounded in March 2019 due to trouble with the model's automated flight software.
It confirmed that in April it lost more than 100 orders for the 737 Max, won no new orders and delivered just six aircraft.