Hundreds of American Airlines employees furloughed in Philadelphia as aid program expires

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Thursday, October 1, 2020
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American Airlines has furloughed hundreds of Philadelphia-based employees

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Hundreds of American Airlines employees in Philadelphia are among the company's 19,000 workers who are now furloughed due to failed negotiations to extend federal aid as the coronavirus pandemic cripples the industry.

The federal government saved airlines financially by passing the CARES ACT back in March at the start of coronavirus shutdowns. That money ran out at midnight on October 1 without an extension plan in place.

The airline industry has taken a huge blow with U.S. air travel currently down nearly 70% from a year ago, according to industry leaders.

More than 1,000 American Airlines employees who would normally be at work in Philadelphia Thursday are now forced to stay home due to temporary cuts and reduced hours.

That includes everyone from flight attendants, to ground crews and supervisors.

"As of midnight, last night, we unfortunately began the furlough process," said Jim Moses, American Airlines Vice President of Northeast Hubs & Gateways.

American Airlines operates a major hub in Philadelphia, which transported more than 25 million passengers through the city last year and generated roughly $115 billion in direct and indirect revenue, according to union and airline leaders.

"As a result of the coronavirus, our industry and our airline have faced unimaginable challenges along with an unprecedented 95% drop in demand," said Moses.

Moses spoke in Philadelphia earlier this week about the current cuts and said passengers should expect to see significant reductions in the number of flights airlines scramble to adjust.

"While we've seen domestic demand begin to stabilize, we're still significantly below where we were last year," Moses said. "As a result, American plans to operate less than 50% of our planned schedule through the fourth quarter of the year."

Many local employees spoke alongside Moses and said they do not know how they're going to make it with reduced hours and pay.

"Not having a check in my pocket affects my household, as well as my counterparts here at American Airlines," said American Airlines flight attendant Christopher John.

More than 10,000 American Airlines employees are based out of Philadelphia.

READ MORE: American Airlines, United Airlines to furlough thousands as CARES Act expires

Union and airline leaders said at least 780 local flight attendants on the carrier will be furloughed along with many other positions.

Furloughed employees usually get to return to their jobs, but that is not good enough for those living through these uncertain times.

"Our jobs support, not only our livelihoods, our families but provides our healthcare," said Kim Kaswinkel, Association of Professional flight Attendants Philadelphia President.

United Airlines is also reporting plans to furlough 13,000 employees nationwide.

Critics said airlines shouldn't get special treatment, and that subsidizing their workforces will only delay the companies' need to adjust to the downturn in travel - which even airline trade groups think will last three or four years.

"The airlines are always the first ones begging for support. They get bailed out over and over again," Veronique de Rugy, a research fellow at George Mason University and columnist for a libertarian magazine, said in a recent interview reported by the Associated Press. "Airlines have a history of not preparing properly for the next emergency because they know they are going to be bailed out."

Lawmakers in Washington are still hashing out the details of the next stimulus package but have not announced a timeline of when a deal could be reached.