The US’ biggest carrier, American Airlines, said nearly 13,000 employees could be furloughed after the second round of federal payroll aid for airline workers ends on April 1, if lockdowns keep planes grounded.
“We are nearly five weeks into 2021, and unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation similar to much of 2020,” American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said in a memo to employees.
Fort Worth, the carrier’s base in Texas, furloughed around 19,000 workers when the previous round of US government assistance expired in October. They were recalled in December, after another $15 billion was provided for the industry through March.
The US government allocated the first rollout of $25 billion last March to keep carriers from cutting employees through the fall. Aviation unions are reportedly pushing for new US payroll assistance of $15 billion to support the industry through the summer.
“The vaccine is not being distributed as quickly as any of us believed, and new restrictions on international travel that require customers to have a negative Covid-19 test have dampened demand,” the memo said.
The furlough program will affect 4,245 flight attendants, 3,145 fleet service workers, 1,850 pilots, 1,420 maintenance workers, 1,205 passenger service personnel, 100 dispatchers, and 40 instructors.
United Airlines sent similar furlough warnings to 14,000 of its workers last Friday. Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines have managed to avert layoffs, however, mostly thanks to voluntary leave programs. Although American and United offered voluntary deals to reduce staffing last year, both companies were still forced to furlough workers.
Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association reported that the number of global air passengers had dropped by 66 percent, due to worldwide lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to analysts at data firm FactSet, the pandemic resulted in net losses of over $35 billion for American Airlines in 2020, accounting for more than 40 percent of global carriers’ losses.
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