Thousands of airline workers have been saved from being placed on unpaid furlough after the House passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill which has been named the American Rescue Plan. The bill includes $14 billion for the use of airlines in a payroll support program – airlines can only tap into the government funding if they agree not to furlough any staffers.
American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker welcomed the passage of the bill saying the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline would be “forever grateful” to Congress for narrowly approving the mammoth spending program.
The airline had been planning to furlough as many as 13,000 employees at the beginning of April when the latest round of payroll support was due to expire.
“By continuing to fund the Payroll Support Program, Congress has saved thousands of airline jobs, preserved the livelihoods of our hard-working team members and helped position the industry to play a central role in the nation’s recovery from COVID-19,” commented Parker in a joint letter with American Airlines president Robert Isom.
“Lawmakers from both parties have backed legislation that recognizes the dedication of airline professionals and the importance of the essential work they do… There is much work left to do before we can all put the pandemic behind us, but with today’s news and the steady progress being made against the virus, we have a hopeful eye on the horizon,” the letter continued.
The new round of funding is expected to secure jobs through to the end of September 2021. Airlines are already gearing up for a surge in passenger demand which is expected to come by the summer as the mass vaccination rollout reaches more and more Americans.
While the aviation industry still believes a full recovery is some years away, travel demand and passenger numbers have been slowly ticking upwards over the last few weeks.
Domestic demand is expected to recover first with business travel and long-haul travel, especially to Asian destinations not expected to return until mid-2021 at the earliest.
“With vaccinations increasing by the day, recovery is in sight,” commented the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) – the largest flight attendant union in the United States which represents crew at 20 airlines including United.
The union hailed the extension of payroll support as a major victory for the labor movement, saying it had been made possible because of lobbying from flight attendants who collectively sent over 100,000 letters to lawmakers urging them to support the relief bill.
Both the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Allied Pilots Association applauded the passage of the bill. Capt. Joe DePete, president of ALPA said the funding would mean that airlines could now react quickly as soon as demand recovers – furloughed pilots would take time to return to operational service.
“From the onset of the pandemic, U.S. airline pilots and crewmembers have been on the job transporting medical personnel to outbreak hotspots and keeping global supply chains, including medical supplies, moving,” Capt. DePete commented.
“Airline pilots have done their part not only to assist this nation through the pandemic but also to help our industry weather the economic storm.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.