American Airlines and United Airlines say they will begin to furlough 32,000 employees after lawmakers and the White House failed to agree on a broad pandemic relief package that includes more federal aid for airlines.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said that if Washington comes up with a deal with $25 billion for airlines “over the next few days,” the company will reverse 19,000 furloughs set to begin Thursday and recall the workers.
United said the impasse forced it to furlough 13,000 workers. United said it told leaders in the Trump administration and Congress that if payroll aid is approved in the next few days, it too could undo the furloughs.
The moves by two of the nation’s four biggest airlines represent the first — and likely the largest part — of involuntary job cuts across the industry in coming days.
Airline employees and executives made 11th-hour appeals this week to Congress and the Trump administration to avert furloughs when a federal prohibition on layoffs — a condition of an earlier round of federal aid — expires Thursday.
The passenger airlines and their labor unions are lobbying for taxpayer money to pay workers for six more months, through next March. Their request is tied up in stalled negotiations over a larger pandemic relief measure.
Industry officials acknowledged that prospects were bleak for action before Thursday’s deadline. They said, however, they were cheered that the House this week included airline payroll help in a $2.2 trillion relief plan that moved closer to Republicans’ preference for a lower price tag.