American Airlines and United Airlines say they will start to furlough 32,000 workers after lawmakers and the White House failed to agree on a broad coronavirus pandemic relief package that includes more federal aid for airline companies.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said that if Washington comes up with a deal with $25 billion for airlines “over the next few days,” the company will reverse 19,000 furloughs set to start from Thursday and recall the employees.
United stated that the impasse forced it to furlough 13,000 employees. United said it informed leaders in the Trump administration and Congress that if payroll aid is approved in the next few days, it too could undo the furloughs.
The moves by two of the nation’s four biggest airlines account for the first — and likely the largest part — of involuntary job cuts throughout the industry in the near future.
Airline workers and executives made 11th-hour appeals this week to Congress and the Trump administration to prevent furloughs when a federal prohibition on layoffs — a condition of an earlier round of federal aid — expires Thursday.
The airlines and their labor unions are lobbying for taxpayer money to pay employees for six more months, through next March. Their request is tied up in stalled negotiations over a larger coronavirus pandemic relief measure.
Industry authorities acknowledged that prospects were bleak for action before Thursday’s deadline. They said, however, they were happy that the House this week included airline payroll help in a $2.2 trillion relief plan that moved closer to Republicans’ preference for a reduced price tag.
“It provides a glimmer of hope that something will get done,” said Nicholas Calio, president of the trade group Airlines for America.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday night that the administration seeks to help hotels, airlines, and schools. He said he was discussing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but hinted that the White House doesn’t want to go above about $1.5 trillion — $700 million below the House Democrats’ numbers.
“I don’t think we’re going to make significant progress” until Thursday, he told on Fox Business.