American Airlines has warned 13,000 of its staff that they are at risk of furlough when the extended US financial aid package for airline workers expires on 1 April 2021.
The airline has blamed a slower-than-expected rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine as well as the slew of newly-introduced international travel restrictions announced off the back of virus mutations that appear stronger and more transmissible.
“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.
“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,” American said, adding that the company will not fly all of its aircraft this summer as it had previously hoped.
The Texas-based airline furloughed 19,000 of its workforce when the initial round of government payroll assistance expired on 1 October 2020, however recalled them in December following the announcement of a fresh $15 billion in aid for the industry.
The latest government aid package extends through to the end of March, however aviation industry unions are already pushing for an additional $15 billion wage bailout to protect jobs through the summer season.
The current potential furloughs reportedly include 1,850 pilots and 4,245 flight attendants.
Elsewhere, United Airlines has sent furlough warnings to 14,000 of its employees, while both Delta Air Lines and Southwest have avoided layoffs for now, mostly through voluntary leave schemes.
United’s pilots approved a deal late last year to prevent furloughs until June.