American Airlines Threatens To Furlough Up To 25,000 Workers

American follows United Airlines in warning mass numbers of employees of coming furloughs.
Credit: American Airlines

American Airlines warned 25,000 frontline workers of possible furloughs, setting the stage for a nearly 20% headcount reduction following the expiration of federal payroll support on Oct. 1.

American CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom announced in a July 15 staff memo they expect to have 20,000 more employees on payroll than needed in the 2020 fourth quarter.

As such, management notified 25,0000 workers of potential furloughs come fall, although the total number will “likely be reduced significantly” through the use of voluntary leave and early-retirement packages.

“We know American will be smaller going forward, and we must right-size all aspects of our airline to adjust to that new reality,” the executives said. “Although this is a day none of us wanted to see, we have created new, generous programs intended to help offset as many frontline furloughs as possible.”

Broken down by workgroup, the largest amount of furlough notifications were delivered to flight attendants (9,950), followed by fleet service (4,500), maintenance (3,200), passenger service (2,900), pilots (2,500) and reservation (1,000), in addition to smaller numbers of dispatchers (175), flight crew training instructors (50) and flight simulator engineers (10).

American is the second major U.S. carrier in as many weeks to warn mass numbers of employees of coming furloughs, after United Airlines sent similar alerts to 36,000 workers on July 8. Delta Air Lines, by contrast, has said it will be overstaffed by 2,300 pilots this fall, but so far has not initiated an action on the same scale as either American or United. 

Parker and Isom also expressed support for efforts from airline employee unions seeking a renewal of the CARES Act Payroll Support Program until March 31, 2021, by which time they predicted “there will most certainly be more demand for air travel, and along with that, much less need for involuntary furloughs throughout the industry.”

Ben Goldstein

Based in Boston, Ben covers advanced air mobility and is managing editor of Aviation Week Network’s AAM Report.