Roughly 13,000 employees with Fort-Worth based American Airlines will receive notices this week warning of potential furloughs, as the second round of federal payroll aid is set to expire next month and travel demand faces challenges.
“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,” American’s CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom wrote in a note to staff.
American Airlines is projected to fly at less 45% less in the first quarter compared to what they flew in the same period in 2019, according to airline leadership. Based on the current demand outlook, leaders say they will not fly all of their aircraft this summer as planned.
“On Friday, we will begin issuing Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices covering approximately 13,000 team members. As a reminder, WARN notices may be required by law in advance of potential furloughs in certain locations, but it’s important to note that these notices do not necessarily equate to furloughs,” the note to employees read.
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CNBC reports the furlough notices will go to 4,245 flight attendants, 3,145 fleet service workers, 1,850 pilots, 1,420 maintenance workers, 1,205 in passenger service, 100 dispatchers and 40 instructors, according to an American Airlines securities filing.
In the second round of coronavirus aid for the airline industry, the latest $15 billion for carriers approved by Congress late last year required airlines to recall the employees they furloughed in the fall and maintain payroll through the end of March.
Tevita Uhatafe of Euless is a fleet service agent with American Airlines. He and his wife both work for the airline at DFW Airport, and he just recently returned to working full-time.
The uncertainty has been a tremendous strain for their family, Uhatafe said.
“As soon as we could celebrate, we already saw what was lingering ahead on March 31. That’s when this current Payroll Support Program extension ceases. So come April 1, we could be furloughed back to part-time, displaced to other stations within the American Airlines system, or on the streets on unemployment again,” he said. “It’s just a hard pill to swallow having to go through this again if we don’t get another extension through Congress.”
In the letter to workers this week, Parker and Isom said they would work with union leadership to mitigate job impact as much as possible. They are ‘fully behind’ efforts led by union leaders urging Congress for an extension of the Payroll Support Program through Sept. 30, they said.
Greg Cosey is president of the local Transport Workers Union of America chapter based in Southlake, which represents about 3,500 workers. From a local union level, Cosey said their role is to support their members the best they can by connecting them to as many resources as possible.
Cosey said moving forward, any decision made by airline and industry leaders must include the employees at the forefront.
“These are human beings. These are people’s lives that are being impacted,” he said. “We recognize that we’re in uncertain times, unchartered waters, but every decision they make impacts our members greatly.”
On Friday, American Airlines will open a voluntary early-out program (VEOP) and a long-term voluntary leave of absence (VLOA) program for frontline, U.S.-based team members, excluding pilots.
“The benefits offered through these programs have not changed from last summer, but given where we are in our recovery, these programs may make more sense for some of our team members today than they did previously,” the airline said.