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Airlines Announce Massive Layoffs

American and United are both planning to lay off tens of thousands of employees

Brian Young's picture
Jul 16, 2020

For months airlines have faced record low bookings. To keep them afloat, the federal government provided $25 Billion in bailout money, but the money runs out on October 1.

With funding running out, major airlines have begun issuing WARN notices that massive layoffs will be happening. American Airlines announced that 25,000 employees could be laid off, while United is projecting similar job cuts. The other legacy carrier, Delta Airlines, doesn’t expect huge layoffs, but that is only because 17,000 people took voluntary layoffs. Even Southwest which prides itself on never having laid off a worker in its 50-year history is warning that they could be facing layoffs.

The unions that represent airline workers have been working with the companies to help save as many jobs as possible through this unprecedented crisis.

"COVID-19 is an unprecedented threat to aviation workers and the entire U.S. aviation industry. This crisis dwarfs all others in aviation history and there's no end in sight. Demand was just barely climbing back to 20 percent of last year and even those minimal gains evaporated over the last week due to surging COVID-19 cases across the country,” said Sara Nelson, the President of the AFA-CWA, which represents flight attendants at United. "The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we've seen on the state of the industry.”

The AFA-CWA is using its considerable power to lobby Congress to pass another stimulus plan, similar to the CARES Act, that would allow the airlines to keep their members employed. The AFA is also united with the other flight attendant and aviation unions, the TWU and APFA, in resisting givebacks. In a letter to the airlines, the three groups said:

We must not let management set up a false choice of pitting our careers against our contracts. Staffing at the airlines is a function of flight schedules and passenger demand. Cutting wages and work rules will not bring our jobs back. It simply means those remaining at work will work for less. And those returning from furlough would come back to lessened career expectations and diminished jobs. We know from experience it can take years or decades to recover from concessions, impacting Flight Attendants of all seniority levels long after the crisis has passed and profitability is restored.

On behalf of tens of thousands of Flight Attendants across the industry, we stand united in our opposition to concessions. Flight Attendants must not be allowed to bear the burden of the aviation crisis. When the industry recovers, and it will, we are committed to retaining our contracts intact and building even more improvements for our Flight Attendant profession.

In an effort to save jobs, the TWU-IAM, which represents workers at American, said the “Association leadership has had a dialogue with American’s senior leadership expressing ideas that could lead to more members opting for a Short Term leave or Voluntary Separation (including offering the Early-Out American presented to members on JetNet during negotiations), fully implementing the work provisions of the negotiated JCBAs and bringing in work currently performed by vendors. The TWU/IAM Association is also working very hard with legislators to extend the Payroll Support Program (PSP) component of the CARES Act through March 31, 2021. If we are successful, this would mitigate any involuntary furloughs and protect our members for an additional six months. We ask every member to reach out to their elected officials to support the PSP extension.”

Like many other industries, without more help from the federal government, there are sure to be increased layoffs in the short term. The ball is now in Trump and McConnell’s court.

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