Citing the slow pace of vaccinations and new travel restrictions, American Airlines has warned 13,000 workers they might be laid off after government aid expires on 31 March.

The move follows an announcement by United Airlines in late January that it had likewise warned 14,000 staff of pending layoffs.

Under US law, some companies must, within 60 days of mass layoffs, warn employees that they might lose their jobs.

American Airlines 737 Max

Source: AirTeamImages

An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max

In a 3 February letter to employees, American says it sent the notices to 13,000 workers, but notes the move does not “necessarily equate to furloughs”.

The letter is signed by chief executive Doug Parker and president Robert Isom.

“Based on current demand… we will not fly all our aircraft this summer as planned,” the letter says. “Consequently, like last fall, we will have more team members than the schedule requires after federal payroll support expires.”

American says market conditions this summer are shaping up to be worse than anticipated.

At the end of 2020, American “fully believed that we would be looking at a summer schedule where we’d fly all of our airplanes and need the full strength of our team”, says the letter. “Regrettably, that is no longer the case.”

“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,” he adds.

In recent weeks the US government has restricted some international travel and required inbound travellers to test negative for Covid-19.

American’s operation in the first quarter of 2021 will be at 45% the strength of its first-quarter 2019 operation, the letter says.

The company supports efforts currently underway to convince Congress to extend the government’s payroll aid programme for a second time, to the end of September. The first package expired at the end of September 2020.

In addition to warning of layoffs, American is again offering voluntary leave and retirement programmes. Staff other than pilots are eligible.