American Airlines’ mass layoff of 19,000 workers includes 2,000 people who work at airports in South Florida, a spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.
The airline followed through on a long-standing pledge to drastically cut payroll after Congress failed to agree on a fresh round of financial assistance for an airline industry laid low by massive business losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. After the pandemic struck down the economy in mid-March, industry passenger traffic plunged by up to 85% at one point, and it is still off by 70% versus 2019, according to Airlines for America, an industry trade group.
Most of the impacted American employees work at Miami International Airport, where the airline operates a massive domestic and international hub. To a lesser extent, American also serves Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Palm Beach International Airport.
The spokeswoman did not break down the layoffs by city. Reportedly, flight attendants were to bear the heaviest cuts, with 8,100 losing their jobs.
In a message to employees on Wednesday, American CEO Doug Parker said the move was unavoidable without a fresh round of federal assistance.
That industry-wide aid, provided through a $25 billion Payroll Support Program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, expired Thursday.
“Despite enormous bipartisan support for an extension of the PSP, our elected officials have not been able to reach agreement on a COVID-19 relief package that would enable this extension,” Parker said in his message.
But Parker said there may be a reprieve if Congress, where lawmakers are continuing negotiations, passes a new aid package soon.
He said he told Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin “that if these efforts to extend PSP are successful over the next few days, we will reverse our furlough processes and recall any impacted team members.”
“I am extremely sorry we have reached this outcome,” Parker added. “It is not what you all deserve.”
He urged employees to continuing lobbying their elected officials to approve new money.
“Please keep contacting your elected officials about the importance of reaching an agreement that will extend PSP,” he said. “We are not done fighting.”
Last month, discount carrier Spirit Airlines of Miramar rescinded a plan to cut 2,500 workers across its system after management reached work sharing and other measures with its unionized pilots and other employees. The airline is among those that accepted government aid. Its agreement provided more than $330 million in relief.
But United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. which also serve South Florida, joined American’s move to start laying off large numbers of workers on Thursday.
United, which is based in Chicago, reportedly was laying off more than 13,000 people. No Florida figures were immediately available, although United previously notified the state of Florida that it intended to drop more than 500 employees from its statewide operations. No figures were available for Atlanta-based Delta, which has a sizable presence in Fort Lauderdale.