American Airlines intends to notify pilots this week of potential layoffs, a move coming after executives estimated the airline may need to cut some 1,500 pilot jobs.
In a 10 July weekly message to pilots, American managing director of flight line operations Chip Long said layoff warnings will come in the form of notices required under a federal law.
“Our expectation is that… notices will be sent next week. Our hope is to very soon engage with [the Allied Pilots Association] and explore every opportunity to take care of our pilots while taking care of our airline,” Long said, according to a recording of the message obtained by FlightGlobal.
Under federal law airlines must notify employees at least 60 days prior to a pending mass layoff.
The Allied Pilot Association (APA), which represents some 15,000 American pilots, tells FlightGlobal it has not held formal discussion with American’s managers about layoffs. However, the union worked with the airline this year to implement voluntary leave and early retirement programmes.
About 800 pilots have retired early and some 4,500 have taken temporary leaves, which come with partial pay, APA says.
American’s ability to trim its workforce is limited until 30 September under the terms of financial aid taken via the US government’s coronavirus relief bill.
The airline declines to comment about potential job cuts, which are suspected to hit a broad swath of employee groups.
American has already said it was cutting 30% of management and administrative jobs.
More information may be available this week, American adds.
But on 24 June, American chief executive Doug Parker gave employees an idea of the scope of cuts.
American’s unionised workforce is “at least” 30% larger than the airline will need in October, and 15-20% larger than it expects to need in July 2021, Parker said during a monthly pilot meeting called “Crew News”.
He called the 15-20% range relevant to American’s pilots because, due to training lead times, American must base pilot staffing on long-term workforce projections.
Specifically, Parker and another executive said American may need to cut 1,500-1,600 pilot jobs.
“It doesn’t make much sense at all to reduce pilot staffing by 50% [if] you… need to be at 80% in six months,” he says.
Dennis Tajer, head of APA’s communications committee, cautions that airlines that cut too many pilots could struggle to rebound when the industry rebounds.
“Every airline… has to be very careful not to trim the ranks too aggressively,” he says. “Airline management teams who focus on where the puck is versus where the puck is going will risked being put on ice during the recovery.”