Aug. 25 (UPI) -- American Airlines said Tuesday it will cut 19,000 workers in October when federal protections to prevent layoffs end because of the coronavirus and its continuing impact on the travel industry.
The announcement comes after Delta Air Lines said it will furlough nearly 2,000 pilots at the same time unless they win concessions from the union.
American Airlines received $25 billion in federal aid in March, which prevented it from slashing its payroll through Sept. 30. Travel demand, though, has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, leaving airlines with harsh economic scenarios.
"Today is the hardest message we have had to share so far -- the announcement of involuntary staffing reductions effective Oct. 1," American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Jones and President Robert Isom said in a staff note.
The staff reductions include furloughs of 17,500 union workers, including flight attendants, pilots and mechanics, and 1,500 administration and management jobs.
Delta Air Lines told its pilots union Monday it would furlough 1,900 pilots unless the alliance agrees to cost-cutting measures, including a 15% cut in base pay.
Delta reported a $7 billion loss for the second quarter and warned last month that it may have to make furloughs if not enough employees volunteered for early retirement.
"We are six months into this pandemic and only 25% of our revenues have been recovered," John Laughter, Delta's senior vice president of flight operations, said in a memo to pilots. "With approximately 11,200 active pilots still on the roster following the Sept. 1 [voluntary early retirement] departures, we are simply overstaffed, and we are faced with an incredibly difficult decision."
The Air Line Pilots Association said it has already sacrificed for the company and said news of the furloughs was "morale crushing." It said 1,800 pilots have agreed to retire voluntarily.
"Delta has been planning to furlough since Day One and has targeted the only major unionized employee group at our airline with layoffs," Ryan Schnitzler, chairman of Delta's Master Executive Council, said. "This threat has loomed over us since the pandemic began if ALPA did not agree to involuntary measures."
Delta CEO Ed Bastian also said Gil West, the senior executive vice president and chief operating officer, will retire after 12 years.
"In his time here, Gil has led the team that has been essential in making Delta what it is today -- the safest, most reliable airline on the planet, with an unmatched drive for innovation in every part of our business," Bastian said in a statement.