The first tier of American Airlines flight attendants have gone through their furlough pay. The second round of attendants and the first round of pilots are about to meet the same fate, according to two unions that represent some of the 19,000 workers who were given furloughs Oct. 1.
American was forced to send the workers home after the Payroll Support Program (PSP) ended and Congress failed to extend benefits. The taxpayer-financed program allowed the airlines to keep employees working while the companies struggled with the near-empty planes and reduced routes brought by the pandemic.
Workers for both the Allied Pilots Association and the Association for Professional Flight Attendants have furlough benefits built into their contracts. However, the benefits for the newer employees are beginning to expire.
For example, a union flight attendant with less than two years of experience is only allowed two weeks of their pay and insurance benefits, according to a chart from the APFA. 395 flight attendants fall under this category. On November first, the second tier, employees with three years’ experience will exhaust their furlough pay and benefits, according to the union.
Union pilots have a different scale. “A pilot who has completed one (1) or more years of service with the company as a flight deck crewmember and who is furloughed shall receive furlough pay based upon such pilot’s earnings for the last full month prior to the announcement of the furlough” says the APA contract with American Airlines. A first year pilot can get a month’s furlough pay.
But it appears the pilots will not lost their benefits. “Our pilots voted in favor of a proposed half-a-percent increase in our dues. It will go directly into paying for medical benefits for our furloughed pilots” said Capt. Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the APA.
Tajer says the insurance is critical because those who are on the cusp of furlough are flying to cities where there is a new surge in COVID 19 cases. And while the planes are deemed safe, travel puts the pilots at an increased risk of bringing the coronavirus home.
Both unions remain hopeful that Congress will reach an agreement to extend the PSP, although action before the Nov. 3 election has cast doubt over a fast compromise.