American Airlines announced Wednesday that it will be sending vacation notices to approximately 13,000 employees this week as a second round of government payroll assistance expires next month and demand for travel continues to be in ruins.
“The vaccine is not being distributed as quickly as neither of us anticipated, and new restrictions on international travel requiring customers to test negative for COVID-19 have dampened demand,” wrote Doug Parker, CEO of American, and Robert Isom, President, in a note to staff.
Rival United Airlines sent similar vacation alerts to 14,000 employees last Friday.
The last $ 15 billion congress, approved for U.S. airlines late last year, urged airlines to call back employees on leave in the fall and keep payroll up through March 31. This was the second round of Covid aid to the industry. Congress gave airlines $ 25 billion last March to keep them from downsizing in the fall.
The airline unions are now seeking more than $ 15 billion in support for the industry’s payroll to keep jobs through Sept. 30, and Americans Parker and Isom said they are backing another round of aid.
“We are fully behind our union leaders’ efforts to fight for an extension and we will use our time and energy to support that effort in any way we can,” they said.
The holiday notifications are sent to 4,245 flight attendants, 3,145 fleet service employees, 1,850 pilots, 1,420 maintenance workers, 1,205 in passenger service, 100 dispatchers and 40 instructors.
After the U.S. airline’s CEOs reported new record losses of $ 34 billion last month, they warned they wouldn’t expect a sharp recovery in air travel anytime soon.
Employers are legally obliged to give staff 60 days in advance of any possible layoffs or temporary vacation days. The communications do not guarantee that recipients will ultimately lose their jobs.
American offers early retirement programs for employees who have been in their workgroups for more than 10 years, including up to $ 150,000 for a retirement reimbursement package and some travel benefits. Absence leave for one year or 18 months with partial remuneration will also be introduced.
“Obviously, issuing these required WARNINGS is not a step we want to take,” said Parker and Isom. “Tens of thousands of our colleagues have faced extreme uncertainty about their job security in the past 12 months. This adds to the emotional stress that our entire team was exposed to during an incredibly difficult year.”
American CEO Parker warned employees last week that the airline is still overstaffed for current demand forecasts and that vacation days may be on the way.
American Airlines is the only major U.S. airline to take pilots on leave as United, Delta, and other airlines have reached agreements with unions that have allowed them to reduce airfare or pay in exchange for not cutting jobs. Delta, Southwest and JetBlue avoided the involuntary downsizing altogether, although the second round of payroll interrupted some contracts with unions.
The Allied Pilots Association, American Airlines’ pilots union, said it would try to reduce the number of vacation days, but criticized the airline’s financial decisions in recent years and the fact that it did not take voluntary measures to limit the spread of flight the downsizing began.
“Management’s unilateral actions over the years and the way our airline’s balance sheet has been treated have placed Americans in a more precarious position than our competitors,” the union said in a statement. “Working with APA will be key if management is to successfully navigate these turbulent times. “