United announced it’s cutting a total of 13,000 jobs. American Airlines is shedding 19,000 jobs. At the root of it all: airline travel is down 70% compared to last year, primarily as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“At the end of the day we are in the midst of a pandemic,“ said Tori Emerson Barnes with the U.S. Travel Association. “There are tons of folks that are rightfully concerned about what happens when they go out.“
Why the cuts now? Federal restrictions against layoffs, under the CARES Act expire Thursday.
The airlines are asking Congress for a second $25 billion stimulus package. The first came back in March.
“When our people lose their jobs, down the line there are other people who support the industry that also lose their jobs,“ says Nick Calio, the CEO of Airlines For America.
The impact, experts say, is already hitting hotels, restaurants and travel venues.
“In 2019, for example, there were 15.8 million travel-related jobs in the U.S.,“ Emerson Barnes says. “ As of May 1, eight million jobs have been lost.“
There will also be a ripple effect for those who do fly. Expect fewer flights and more crowded planes.
“You may have a couple of airplanes that fly a similar route or the same route, maybe you don’t have two options anymore,“ Emerson-Barnes said.
The travel industry is hoping Congress will act before taking a pre-election recess.
But Delta Air Lines is taking a different approach. They are moving ahead with the long and short-term voluntary leaves of absence for 40,000 workers.
Ground personnel are also asked to voluntarily agree to a 25% reduction in their hours.
“This might be it,“ says Hala. “There’s no guarantees in the future that we will be able to come back.”