Air travel is down an estimated 70% this year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result tens of thousands of Americans are on the brink of losing their job as a result. The Associated Press reports an estimated 40,000 airline workers could soon be furloughed and left without income or insurance as the industry tries to ride out the pandemic’s impact on travel.
One of those impacted workers is Toni Valentine, a 41-year-old United reservations agent from Detroit. A mother of six, Valentine has been the main worker in her family for some time as her husband is recovering from a stroke. Valentine expects to be laid off later this week as part of United’s planned cuts.
“Knowing that I may not have insurance benefits, I feel like I have failed,” Valentine said on a conference call. “I’m the primary breadwinner in this family.”
Valentine says she often worked 80 hours a week prior to the pandemic to care for her family. But now with her pending job loss, her 19-year-old son has dropped out of college to help support the family.
“We’re crying for help and no one is hearing,” Valentine said.
A major reason for the planned cuts is the lack of a second round of stimulus funding from the federal government. When the first round was passed earlier this year, airlines that received funding agreed not to make any cuts until Sept. 30. However, with that deadline approaching and a second round of funding not approved, United and American Airlines are expected to start making massive cuts soon.
“I don’t have enough, unfortunately, to get by,” said Jordy Comeaux, a United employee for the past four years. “No one knows what’s going to come next and how to prepare.”
The 31-year-old flight attendant went on to say he and his husband won’t be able to afford their bills once Comeaux loses his job.
While United and American have announced plans for cuts, the other two major U.S. airlines, Delta and Southwest are using private capital to cover costs and avoid layoffs, for now. In the second quarter alone, those four airlines lost an estimated $10 billion combined the AP reports.
The pandemic has not only hurt the air travel industry, but business is also down for rental cars, hotels and restaurants across the country, leading to cuts in those industries as well.
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