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WARN Letters, Again: Management Announces Up to 1,850 Pilot Furloughs

Management announced that American Airlines is sending a WARN notice affecting 1,850 pilots. This news and the potential new round of pilot furloughs is devastating not only for the affected pilots and their families, but for all of us.

APA continues to make efforts to mitigate as many furloughs as possible, including lobbying for a continuation of the Payroll Support Program investment in our nation’s critical infrastructure to extend the bridge to recovery. As we are painfully aware, the most recent PSP extension had a very short duration that left the industry anxious about its March 31 expiration.

Although we recognize CEO Doug Parker’s efforts when he joined APA on Capitol Hill for PSP, today’s news does come with some head scratching. While perhaps not unexpected due to near-term passenger demand, the announcement seems to contradict recent comments by President Robert Isom, who said during last week’s earnings call that, due to retirements, American would “be hiring pilots in the not-too-distant future.”

Adding to the confusion was an earlier comment at an airline conference by Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja, who stated that it takes “12 to 15 months to build crews to fly the airplane.” Management’s decision to furlough pilots while our competitors refrain from such actions could impede management’s plan to thrive during the recovery.

The negative effects of furloughing have been an operational headwind for management. In last week’s report that ranked American as the worst airline of 2020, The Wall Street Journal cited management’s decision to lay off workers as a reason for the airline’s poor operational performance.

“American says it was making meaningful improvements early in the year, but the pandemic stifled momentum. After dealing with the initial months of massive disruption, the airline’s fall layoffs caused more disruption because so many employees moved to different locations to fill in.” (The Best and Worst U.S. Airlines of 2020)

This WARN announcement adds to our frustration over the fact that (as detailed in a recent Negotiating Journal) “there are contractual mechanisms already in place to better distribute flying, which could reduce the number of pilots furloughed. However, American Airlines chooses not to utilize these provisions.”

Management’s unilateral actions over the years, along with their treatment of our airline’s balance sheet, have placed American in a more precarious situation than our competitors. Collaboration with APA will be key if management hopes to successfully navigate these turbulent times.

In the face of these challenges, APA has been proactive from the beginning of this devastating pandemic and has been influential in affecting positive results for our pilots, our airline, and the industry as a whole. Where we have often positively led, management has too often delivered negative results – including being the only major airline to furlough pilots. Your union’s National Officers, Board of Directors, and many volunteers are fully engaged with our subject-matter experts, legal and financial advisors, as well as our fellow pilots at other unions to ensure that the entire membership’s interests are fully represented. You are our priority, and we shall continue to stand together.

As new information becomes available, APA will provide timely updates.

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