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American Airlines Hopeful it Can Start Bringing Back Furloughed Flight Attendants Early Next Year

American Airlines Hopeful it Can Start Bringing Back Furloughed Flight Attendants Early Next Year

American Airlines has told thousands of furloughed flight attendants that it is “hopeful” it can start recalling some of its laid-off workers early next year. The airline, however, warned such a move could be impacted by “many variables” including the rollout of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines from the likes of Pfizer and Moderna which might receive emergency FDA approval within weeks.

At the start of October, American furloughed around 19,000 employees after funding for a federal payroll support program dried up. Despite the likes of American’s chief executive Doug Parker pleading with Congress to pass a multi-billion-dollar Coronavirus stimulus package to keep workers from facing unemployment, lawmakers have so far failed to make any headway on a potential deal.

Photo Credit: American Airlines
Photo Credit: American Airlines

Telling the furloughed flight attendants, whose seniority goes all the way back to 2001, that they are “still an important part of the Flight Service family”, the update from American’s senior manager for communications and contract administration, Keith McCarty explained the airline was hopeful it would start recalling flight attendants in the first half of 2021.

“However, many variables will come into play,” McCarty warned. “Mainly the demand for air travel and whether we secure additional payroll support from Congress”.

That demand for air travel has so far failed to reach anywhere near the levels that American or other airlines were expecting at this point in the pandemic. And with a third wave of COVID-19 infections surging across the United States, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dashed hopes of a busy travel period over the Thanksgiving holidays, instead telling Americans to stay at home.

A number of carriers, including both American and United, have reported a sharp uptick in last-minute cancellations as travellers heed official health advice to stay put and avoid meeting with their loved ones.

The new hope for the Dallas Forth Worth-based airline is that it can get international demand back with pre-travel COVID-19 testing. American already offers at-home testing for services to Hawaii, Belize, Grenada, and St. Lucia where a pre-departure test exempts travellers from quaratine.

The airline has also partnered with British Airways on a transatlantic testing trial that it hopes will convince both the US and UK governments to ease travel restrictions. On Thursday, the airline said it would abolish international change fees in a bid to convince more travellers to part with their cash.

Passenger numbers, however, remain stubbornly low with the Transport Security Administration (TSA) screening an average of around 35 per cent of passengers per day compared to the same period last year.

When American does get around to sending out recall notices, flight attendants will have just seven days to respond or face having to wait until the next round of recalls. After 16 days, American will assume a furloughed flight attendant no longer wants the job and will terminate their employment for good.

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