U.S. Airline Industry Set to Cut Tens of Thousands of Jobs This Week Amidst Pandemic-Induced Downturn

American Airlines aircraft in Miami

By Kurt Stolz on 27 September 2020
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The U.S. airline industry is currently facing its worst crisis since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks.  The coronavirus pandemic, which initially resulted in billions of dollars in grants and loans to the airlines to keep workers on the payroll, has decimated travel and people are not returning to the skies in droves as had been predicted just a few months ago.

As a result, the industry is set to cut tens of thousands of jobs this week, when the protections put into place by the CARES Act, which funded the loans and grants, run out.

United Airlines plans to furlough 16,370 employees and American will likely lay off close to 19,000.

While these figures are a far cry from the numbers originally floated – United had warned nearly half of its workforce, some 36,000 people, that they might be furloughed, while American warned 25,000 employees the very same day – the numbers are nonetheless staggering and don’t reflect the complete picture.

The U.S. airline industry itself employees 750,000 workers, and it indirectly supports ten million jobs and $1.7 trillion in economic activity, according to Airlines for America, an industry trade group representing major U.S. carriers.

Congress can still act, however. There’s not much time but it is possible.

“Without action, they’re going to be furloughed on October 1, and it’s not fair,” said American Airlines CEO Doug Parker at a news conference earlier in the week.

JetBlue Airways, which has not announced detailed figures, is far from immune from the necessity of furloughs.

“Unfortunately, the dynamic in Washington, D.C., has really created an environment where our hopes are still there… [Although] it’s not looking as positive as it was its going to be,” said Joanna Geraghty at the World Aviation Festival last week, noting that it will be “a tough, tough road.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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