Thousands of pilots and flight attendants facing midnight deadline, worry about jobs


Thousands of pilots and flight attendants for American Airlines are facing a midnight deadline, uncertain whether they will have a job tomorrow. The federal Payroll Support Program is due to expire, even as negotiations continue in Washington.

The talks follow a decision by Fort Worth based American to accept billions of dollars in loans from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. However, the unions that represent both the pilots and the flight attendants say the loan has little to do with the payroll program.

Those loans go directly into the bank for American Airlines to use for operating costs.  They are still going to lay off their 19-thousand workers on October first and they are going to be thrown onto the unemployment line if we don’t get this payroll support program extended and get the grants from Congress.” said Paul Hartshorn Jr, spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents the workers at American Airlines.

While the APFA has been vocal for weeks about extending the program, its members are not the only ones affected.  Pilots are also waiting to see if they are diverted.

“We call this ‘bingo fuel’” said Dennis Tajer of the Allied Pilots Association.  “Bingo fuel means you are no longer able to stay holding and you have to proceed to you alternate.  So we are approaching bingo fuel.”

He says there are 800 pilots who will be furloughed in the morning and another 800 in the days ahead.

It is the APA’s position that the layoffs will lead to bad news for the fragile economy.

“This is an investment in our country in the infrastructure. Most employees will go out and collect unemployment benefits.  You’re looking at it from a financial standpoint and the recovery…this an easy choice.” said Tajer.

Both unions say there are talks taking place in Washington and they are still hoping a deal can be minted before the benefits run out.