It’s crunch time in the United States with CARES Act funding ending, and no extension negotiated locked-in. That means many airline employees are taking their last flights ahead of expected mass layoffs. But not all the employees are going out quietly. Some are going out with some noise, but also with a lot of style and grace.
For myself and one other crew member on our flight today, this means we’ll be furloughed October 1, and unfortunately, this was my last working flight before that day comes,” said American Airlines flight attendant Breaunna Ross as she welcomed her passengers to Dallas on the weekend.
“I also want to personally thank each and every one of you for choosing to fly American today. This job was an escape for me after being unhappy with my job after graduating from college. It was a job that awarded me many opportunities. A job that I fell in love with.”
United Airlines flight attendant Annette Hala spoke to ABC News about working for seven years at United.
“I dreamed of being a flight attendant when I was a little girl, and my dream came true,” she said.
The CEOs at both airlines, American’s Doug Parker and United’s Scott Kirby have vowed to reinstate their employees if or when CARES Act funding gets extended.
Airline bosses scramble to get CARES Act funding extended
Frantic behind the scenes negotiations are underway in Washington. In a letter sent to his employees this week, Doug Parker said he had just spoken to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
“He informed me that the White House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are continuing to negotiate on a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that would include an extension of the payroll support package and it is possible they could reach an agreement in the coming days.”
To date, US airlines have received around US$25 billion in financial aid under the CARES Act. That includes $5.8 billion given to American Airlines for payroll support, $5.4 billion provided to Delta Air Lines, $5 billion handed over to United Airlines, and approximately $3.3 billion given to Southwest Airlines.
But between them, US airlines are reportedly losing around $5 billion a month as US domestic passenger numbers remain nearly 70% down on this time last year. The US airlines are running around half their usual number of flights.
The airlines say they cannot afford to keep employees such as Breaunna Ross, Rheanna Lawson, and Annette Hala on the books without further payroll support.
The situation is less precarious for employees at both Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. Both airlines have no plans for immediate furloughs as CARES Act funding ends. But that may change down the track unless the airline industry starts to pick up more.
For 32,000 employees at United Airlines and American Airlines, it’s crunch time. While Republicans and Democrats feud in Washington, playing fast and loose with people’s livelihoods, JetBlue’s CEO Robin Hayes made a last-ditch appeal today.
“Please Congress, we need you to do your job. and we need you to do it now.”