American Airlines‘ corporate office announced today that the carrier is planning to eliminate over 40,000 jobs this year. 19,000 of those 40,000 jobs will be furloughs and layoffs in October.
American Airlines said 23,500 employees have accepted buyouts, retired early or taken long-term leaves of absence, but that was not enough to avoid involuntary cuts.
As the carrier struggles with sharp downturn in travel because of COVID-19 pandemic, American executives said the furloughs can only be avoided if the federal government provides airlines with another $25 billion to help them cover labor costs for 180 more days.
The furloughs of union workers and layoffs of management staff announced Tuesday will fall heaviest on flight attendants, with 8,100 being terminated in October. American began the year with about 140,000 employees but expects fewer than 100,000 to remain in October.
U.S. air travel plunged 95% by April, a few weeks after the first significant COVID-19 outbreaks in the United States. Passenger traffic has recovered slightly since then but remains down 70% from a year ago, and carriers say they need fewer workers.
American’s announcement comes one day after Delta Air Lines said it will furlough 1,941 pilots in October unless it reaches a cost-cutting deal with the pilots’ union.
In March, passenger airlines got $25 billion from the government to save jobs for six months, and American was the biggest beneficiary, receiving $5.8 billion. The money, and an accompanying ban on furloughs, expire after Sept. 30, although airlines and their labor unions are lobbying Congress for another $25 billion and a six-month reprieve from job cuts.
Airlines were the only industry to get special treatment in a $2.2 trillion virus-relief measure approved in March. There is broad support in Congress for extending airline aid, but it is stalled by a breakdown in negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats over a new, large aid package.
American’s cuts include jobs at affiliates that operate American Eagle regional flights. The number of furloughs of union employees with rehiring rights and layoffs of management and support staff is less than the 25,000 who got warnings in July. American said they will be paid through September to comply with terms of the federal aid.
United Airlines warned 36,000 employees in July that they could lose their jobs in October. The airline has not updated that figure. Southwest Airlines has said it doesn’t expect to impose furloughs this year, although like others, Southwest is encouraging employees to take buyouts or early retirement.
Delta plans to furlough all pilots with less than three years of experience at the Atlanta-based carrier.