DALLAS — American Airlines will issue 13,000 new furlough notices on Friday with travel demand stagnating and government aid set to expire at the end of March.
After warning employees about the possibility of more furlough notices last week, Fort Worth-based American told employees in a letter Wednesday that it plans to issue 13,000 new Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notices on Friday. Those notices are legally required 60 days before a company makes major workforce reductions.
“As we closed out last year with the successful extension of the Payroll Support Program (PSP), we fully believed that we would be looking at a summer schedule where we’d fly all of our airplanes and need the full strength of our team,” said the letter from CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom to employees. “Regrettably, that is no longer the case.”
All union employees have recall rights, but it could be several months until demand is significant enough to justify bringing back airline workers.
The warnings don’t mean furloughs are certain, but they give notice to employees who may temporarily lose their jobs.
Parker and Isom said that the carrier’s flying will be down 45% in the first quarter “and based on current demand outlook, we will not fly all of our aircraft this summer as planned.”
United Airlines already issued some 14,000 furlough warnings to employees. While Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has said it won’t furlough any employees or cut wages this year, it is offering voluntary leave and early retirement to workers in efforts to trim workforce costs.
American and other airlines are now pinning hopes that an upcoming stimulus program being negotiated by federal lawmakers will again include help for airlines.
TSA data shows that the number of passengers flying out of U.S. airports is still down more than 60% from a year ago.
The layoff news comes just weeks after American Airlines accepted $3.1 billion in federal stimulus grants and loans as part of the second wave of airline relief. American got nearly $6 billion from the first COVID-19 economic relief bill passed in March 2020.
But all that help didn’t stop American Airlines from losing $8.9 billion in 2020 and finishing the last quarter of the year still losing $30 million a day.
American Airlines furloughed some 19,000 employees on Oct. 1, only to call them back in late December as Congress finished the latest economic stimulus bill that included $15 billion of payroll support for the airline industry. Many of the 19,000 workers still aren’t back on the job yet and are waiting for training to return.
The new furlough announcement includes 4,245 flight attendants
As part of the announcements Wednesday, American said it would offer a new round of voluntary leave and early retirement program for “frontline team members, excluding pilots.” American said it’s offering the same benefits as the program it offered last summer, which gave employees the option of taking reduced pay during their leave or benefits. American is giving employees the chance to step away for 12 to 18 months, after which a recovery is more likely.
“Obviously, issuing these required WARN notices isn’t a step we want to take,” Parker and Isom’s letter said. “Tens of thousands of our colleagues have faced extreme uncertainty about their job security over the past 12 months, and that’s on top of the emotional stress all of our team has faced during an incredibly difficult year.”