American Airlines Sending About 13,000 Furlough Warnings as Pandemic Pain Continues

American Airlines is telling about 13,000 employees that they are at risk of furlough when a U.S. aid package for airline workers expires on April 1, the company said on Wednesday.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American furloughed 19,000 workers when a previous round of government payroll support ended on Oct. 1 but recalled them in December after a fresh $15 billion for the industry through March.

The company had hoped that pandemic-hit demand would rebound by then, but slow rollouts of vaccines and the emergence of coronavirus variants are delaying the recovery, fueling a push by aviation unions for another $15 billion in U.S. payroll assistance.

“We are nearly five weeks into 2021, and unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation similar to much of 2020,” Chief Executive Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said in a memo to employees which was also included in a regulatory filing.

“The vaccine is not being distributed as quickly as any of us believed, and new restrictions on international travel that require customers to have a negative COVID-19 test have dampened demand,” they said, adding that the company will not fly all of its aircraft this summer as planned.

United Airlines has sent fresh furlough warnings to 14,000 employees, while Delta Air Lines Inc and Southwest Airlines Co have averted layoffs mostly thanks to voluntary leave programs.

American and United also offered voluntary deals to reduce staffing last year but were still forced to furlough.

American said it was launching a fresh round of exit packages in an effort to mitigate potential involuntary furloughs, similar to plans by United.

They are required by law to inform employees whose jobs are at risk, generally within 60 days.

American’s potential furloughs include 1,850 pilots and 4,245 flight attendants. United’s pilots approved a deal late last year to prevent furloughs until June.

By Tracy Rucinski