As many as 50,000 airline workers could be furloughed starting Thursday morning after Congress failed to pass a last-minute deal to extend coronavirus relief aid to the embattled industry.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker confirmed late Wednesday that his airline would go ahead with 19,000 layoffs — or 14 percent of its pre-pandemic workforce — but said it would “reverse” them if an agreement were reached.
“Tomorrow, we will begin the difficult process of furloughing 19,000 of our hardworking and dedicated colleagues,” Parker wrote in a memo to staff members. “I am extremely sorry we have reached this outcome. It is not what you all deserve.”
United Airlines confirmed that it will cut thousands of jobs, telling employees in a letter: “We regrettably are forced to move forward with the process of involuntarily furloughing about 13,000 of our United team members. We implore our elected leaders to reach a compromise, get a deal done now, and save jobs.”
At stake are the jobs of close to 50,000 pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, counter agents and other airline and airport personnel.
A provision of the CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed in March, covered nearly 75 percent of airlines’ payroll expenses, with the stipulation that airlines not let any workers go until Oct. 1. The provision expires Wednesday night.
House Democrats have proposed an overall coronavirus relief package that would include an extension of the protections, but Senate Republicans have yet to agree. Substantial progress on the deal could not be made before the time limit, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business on Wednesday night.
Talks on the larger package will continue Thursday, he said, adding, “There’s money for airlines.”
However, those talks could come too late for many in the industry.
“Tomorrow, tens of thousands of essential aviation