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U.S. airlines employment expected to reach lowest level in decades

U.S. airlines will lose 90,000 jobs by December, Airlines for America said Thursday in an update on COVID-19 impact. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
U.S. airlines will lose 90,000 jobs by December, Airlines for America said Thursday in an update on COVID-19 impact. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. airlines employment is set to fall to its lowest level in decades by year's end due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a trade group said Thursday.

Employment will drop by 90,000 full-time employees by December, according to Airlines for America trade group, which represents major U.S. airlines.

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The 90,000 job losses will bring U.S. airlines employment to its lowest level since the mid-1980s by year's end as a result of more than 30,000 furloughs at airlines such as United and American and thousands of other workers from Southwest, Delta and other carriers accepting buyouts, CNBC reported.

Labor unions and passenger carriers have urged Congress to pass a second $25 billion federal aid package to preserve jobs, but lawmakers haven't reached an agreement on a new stimulus package.

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Bureau of Transportation Statistics data that the trade group compiled show the drop from pre-COVID peak in March of 460,000 full-time jobs to 370,000 full-time jobs by year's end.

The cuts have come amid a decline in demand for travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demand has improved since the more than five-decade low hit in April, but in the most recent week, U.S. airline passenger volumes were still 65% below year-ago levels, Airlines for America reported.

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The trade group highlighted continued challenges going into the holidays due to the COVID-19 pandemic surging with cases in the United States surpassing 120,000 per day in the most recent week, according to World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. COVID-19-related U.S. hospitalizations are also at an all-time high of about 65,000, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

New cases are also surging in Europe, though they're trending down in India and Brazil, according to the WHO and CDC data.

The Dallas-based carrier Southwest Airlines, the largest in the nation based on the number of passengers boarded annually, has been profitable every year since it lost a bit of money its first year in business in 1971, but expects to post its first huge annual loss and lay off workers in January.

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Pfizer and partner BioNTech announced earlier this week that their vaccine trial has shown the first scientific evidence that it can block the coronavirus disease in 90% of humans, lifting airline stocks.

"Keep in mind that while developing a vaccine is an important step, widespread distribution will take many months, so we continue to expect 2021 will be a year with continued challenges," Delta's CEO Ed Bastion said in a staff note.

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