American Airlines, Philadelphia’s dominant air carrier, has notified state officials that it expects to furlough 1,937 employees at Philadelphia International Airport between Oct. 1 and mid-November, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to weigh heavily on air travel.
American plans to permanently eliminate an additional 31 Philly-based positions in the fall, according to a July 15 WARN Act filing with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires employers in some circumstances to give advance notice of furloughs and layoffs.
PSA Airlines, an American Airlines subsidiary, also told the state that it anticipates reducing its Philadelphia workforce by 124 jobs, made up of 73 pilots and 51 flight attendants. PSA said it hopes those job losses are only temporary.
A third company — United Airlines — said in a July 8 filing that 95 of its Philadelphia-based employees are expected to lose their jobs for six months or longer, starting in October.
While “demand has moved slightly upward from its April low, down 95%, we have lost billions of dollars over this three-month period and are still spending far more than we are taking in,” United told the state’s Labor Department. “Additionally, we expect that travel demand will not go back to ‘normal’ until there is a vaccine for COVID-19.”
As of mid-June, United noted, “demand for air travel remains more than 90% lower than last year.”
Both American and United warned employees earlier this month of possible job reductions. American said as many as 25,000 jobs could be affected, and United said as many as 36,000 employees could be furloughed in the coming months.
Congress approved $32 billion in payroll support for airlines to continue paying aviation workers through Sept. 30. Airlines are not allowed to lay off workers before then, but, in the meantime, air carriers have worked with employee unions to offer leaves of absence and early retirements on a voluntary basis.
Airline and union officials say they hope the job cuts announced this month can be offset by employees who choose one of the voluntary leave packages.
But unions that represent flight attendants, pilots, and other aviation workers are also lobbying Congress to extend payroll support for the industry, through March 2021.
“That’s our No. 1 goal here at the union,” said Paul Hartshorn Jr., a spokesperson for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.
Only by extending the program can “Congress ensure that airline workers will continue to stay on payroll and ready to turn the industry around, prevent mass unemployment in October, and keep aviation workers ready to lift off as travel picks back up,” union leaders wrote in a letter to lawmakers last month.
American Airlines employed more than 9,500 people at its Philadelphia hub as of 2019, including nearly 2,800 flight attendants and about 1,500 pilots, along with about 1,700 fleet service workers, 785 passenger service employees, and 530 in maintenance.
The company’s WARN filing did not specify which types of Philadelphia-based jobs would be affected by furloughs, and a company spokesperson did not provide further details.