American Airlines is bringing 11 pilots back to work after furlough. They’ll start requalification training on March 2, 2021. All of them have received a WARN Act notice, letting them know they may be re-furloughed at the start of April.
- Four of the pilots will fly Airbus narrowbodies and 7 will be first officers on Boeing 737s.
- Three are based at New York LaGuardia; two each at Washington National, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Los Angeles; and one each at Boston; Philadelphia and Phoenix.
All of American’s furloughed pilots and other employees have been getting paid under the second round of Payroll Support Program subsidies from the federal government. Pay started at the end of December, retroactive to December 1.
Congress required them to be paid through March 31 but there was no rule that said they had to work. Airlines claimed if they weren’t flying the economy could collapse and vaccines wouldn’t be transported. None of that was true. These 11 will go into training, but other furloughed pilots may not train at all before the airline is free to let them go again.
American reports that paying previously furloughed workers costs them $100 million a month for four months, so they’re spending less than 15% of Payroll Support Program 2 subsidies on employees who had been furloughed. The airline keeps the other 85% for themselves (using it to cover costs they would have incurred anyway).
Since it was so important to the airline and country to get these pilots flying that it drove a second round of subsidies, you’d think American might be willing to spend even a little more of the subsidy money they were given by the federal government actually paying pilots rather than letting the go again? (Just in case you think ‘no private business would spend more than they’re legally required to’ bear in mind that Southwest committed not to furlough anyone through the end of 2021 once they received the second bailout, and Delta hasn’t furloughed anyone either.)
One thing that’s boosted how much money American Airlines keeps for itself is voluntary leaves. They’ve convinced employees to go on unpaid leaves. Many thought they would collect unemployment, understanding that American would not contest these claims.
Now they are stuck – no pay while states clamor for repayment of unemployment – but American keeps the money government gave that these employees would have been entitled to if they hadn’t been enticed to take voluntary leaves. American isn’t paying them out of payroll support funds because they left voluntarily, and of course one argument for PSP was that it would save on unemployment.
he airline really should make good on this, since if they hadn’t enticed people into these leaves they’d have had to pay them using PSP funds anyway! And unlike Southwest they’re not going to commit to keeping employees on past April thanks to the second government bailout – instead they are holding out for bailout number three!