Flight attendants for American Airlines have been picketing outside the offices of members of Congress in North Texas this week to call for an agreement to extend the Payroll Support Program. Without an agreement, the program providing support to U.S.-based airlines will end September 30.
Last week, American Airlines Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker sent a letter to employees warning the airline would have to furlough 19,000 workers at the end of the month without an extension.
"Despite this broad bipartisan support, a PSP extension is tied up in a larger COVID-19 relief package, which our elected officials haven't yet been able to negotiate. So we must prepare for the possibility that our nation's leadership will not be able to find a way to further support aviation professionals and the service we provide, especially to smaller communities," Parker wrote.
The furloughs would affect 8,100 flight attendants, the largest number among American Airlines' unions.
"The numbers are unbelievable," says the Association of Professional Flight Attendants' Paul Hartshorn. "With that said, American does support an extension of the Payroll Support Program. They don't want to lay off these employees, I don't think any airline does."
Wednesday, APFA members picketed outside the offices of Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Thursday, they were outside the offices of U.S. representatives in "swing districts." Friday, they plan to deliver a letter to hand-written letters to members of Congress.
"We are working as hard as we can with Congress in Washington D.C. to get this deal done, to keep us all connected through next March," Hartshorn says.
He says the letters include the additional effects furloughs would have on local economies.
"It's absolutely staggering. We have to look beyond these aviation jobs. We have to think about the jobs that are connected to aviation. I'm talking about the hotel van driver. I'm talking about the food vendor at DFW Airport," Hartshorn says. "The potential number of layoffs could be huge, way past what we're concerned with in the aviation industry alone."
Other furloughs would include 1,600 pilots and 800 maintenance workers.
On Wednesday, United Airlines announced that 16,370 employees will be furloughed next month, when payroll restrictions attached to federal coronavirus aid expires.