FORT WORTH, Texas. – American Airlines will furlough a total of 8,099 flight attendants and 1,600 pilots in October due to the hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the company confirmed Tuesday.
Prior to the pandemic, American employed 27,000 flight attendants. A total of 2,700 have exited the company permanently and 4,500 more will be on voluntary leave in October.
American employed 15,000 pilots prior to the pandemic, 1,200 of whom have left the company permanently and 700 of whom will be on voluntary leave beginning in October.
“As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the airline industry particularly hard,” Senior Vice President of Flight Service Jill Surdek wrote to employees in an email. “The resulting economic situation has been worse than any of us could have imagined, and customer demand is returning at a much slower rate than we originally anticipated. As a result, the company has been forced to reduce the airline schedule further.”
According to the email, people are continuing to travel less and the company’s fall schedule is down by more than 50 percent compared to last year.
“This lower schedule has increased our overage to approximately 14,000 flight attendants,” Surdek wrote.
American Airlines flight attendant Jaime Amaya from Miami is currently on leave. He says seniority will help him keep his job, for now.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise but to be honest it came as a surprise,” he said. “I don’t know about tomorrow, because right now it’s like, what am I going to do, is this really happening.”
Richard Dsrouleaux is a ramp worker at MIA and he’s been laid off before.
“This also affects other jobs that are connected to the aviation industry, we need to think about the hotel, the hospitality industry, the hotel van drivers, the food vendors at the Miami airport,” he said.
AA employed more than 13,000 in January at Miami International Airport where the airline operated more than 340 daily flights to nearly 130 destinations, including service to more than 80 cities across Latin America and the Caribbean.
AA is among Miami-Dade’s top private employers only after Baptist Health South Florida and the University of Miami. It’s unclear how exactly the layoffs will affect the MIA hub and the Miami-Dade County’s jobless rate.
According to Surdek, the most senior employee who will be furloughed was hired in July 2013.
“I speak for everyone at American Airlines and in Flight Service when I say this is an extremely sad day,” she wrote. “This furlough impacts the flight attendants we have been proud to hire in the last few years. These are team members who bring great excitement, energy, diversity and professionalism to our team. To those who are leaving us for now, you have our commitment to bring you back as soon as our schedule allows. And we look forward to the time we’ll be able to welcome you back.”