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U.S. Airlines Hope to Avoid October Furloughs

By Kelly Hoggan

US airlines, including the Big Three of Delta, United, and American, have generally finalized their planned furloughs and layoffs for October if federal aid isn’t extended or renewed. Such assistance, which many domestic air carriers have benefited from for the last several months, is scheduled to expire on September 30th, with airlines already warning many of their employees of possible layoffs. Hope still remains, however, as both Congress and President Donald Trump, have said a renewal of federal airline aid under the CARES Act should be a priority.


Airline Numbers


Though it previously had announced potential furloughs and layoffs numbering 36,000 on October 1st, United Airlines has lately been able to trim that figure to 16,000 through voluntary separations and leaves of absence. Of the various employee groups working for United, flight attendants will be the hardest hit by layoffs, with 7,000 of them expected to face unemployment. The carrier also plans to trim 1,400 management and administrative staff.


Hawaiian Airlines, a major player in the Hawaii-Mainland US travel market, also announced planned furloughs or layoffs of more than 2,000 employees, with 800 of those cuts also coming from the carrier’s flight attendant ranks, 300 of them involuntarily. In addition, around 200 Hawaiian pilots are looking at furlough, with 100 of those employees being furloughed involuntarily as well.


American Airlines and Delta Air Lines had already announced job cut figures, with the former expecting to cut up to 19,000 of its employees on October 1st and the latter looking at 2,000 pilots and “tens of thousands” of other workers on that same date. Both carriers have expressed hope that the federal government would step in before CARES Act aid expires to help prevent such large job losses. Even Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest non-hub air carrier, announced recently that it’s considering involuntary job cuts by the end of the year, something it’s never done in nearly 50 years.


Lobbying Congress


US airlines are also asking their employees to lobby Congress for a continuation of federal payroll support and aid at least through early 2021 to avoid upcoming layoffs and furloughs. A number of powerful airline labor unions have been pushing their ranks for months to contact their members of Congress to push for more funds. Unfortunately, such assistance is caught up in the congressional impasse over broader coronavirus relief and it’s not entirely clear which of the aid packages being discussed contain additional airline help. The Trump administration has also vowed to take executive action to free up aid, but without congressional legislation no one is really sure just what the White House can do on that front.


TSA Screening Numbers


Nationwide, Transportation Security Administration passenger security screening numbers are still below those for the same time the year prior, though they have been showing signs of a slow, steady recovery. Friday September 4th, the traditional start of the Labor Day holiday travel weekend, saw nearly 970,000 passengers go through TSA airport checkpoints, with 935,000 flyers screened on Monday the 7th, the end of the holiday weekend. Those figures mark the first time since last March 17th that TSA has seen more than 900,000 travelers make their way through the agency’s security checkpoints. With the unofficial start of fall also bringing with it the regular decline in air travel, though, don’t expect a return of multimillion-passenger daily screening numbers from TSA in the near future.

Kelly Hoggan, Founder and CEO of H4 Solutions, previously served as assistant administrator for operations at the Transportation Security Administration. In that role, he was responsible for aircraft and checkpoint security operations at the nation's 450-plus commercial airports.

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