American Airlines Will Pay Employees Not To Work

Internal American Airlines documents describe the carrier’s plan to pay employees not to work, as part of the federal government’s Payroll Support Program passed by Congress as part of its stimulus legislation.

The second round of airline payroll support passed Congress and awaits the President’s signature, and American Airlines can expect about $3.5 billion from the federal government. In exchange they are obligated to bring furloughed employees back to work. They’ll be paid retroactive to December 1, 2020 and have to remain on payroll through March 31, 2021.

The intention of this legislation was that employees would actually work, stay current and ready to support more flying when people are ready to fly. That was at least the argument used to support giving U.S. airlines $15 billion, even though only 40,000 workers had been furloughed ($375,000 per worker for just four months).

The reality is very different. United Airlines has already told employees to expect to be re-furloughed effective April 1. American Airlines, in internal communications (“Returning to American – Top FAQs”) reviewed by View From The Wing, is telling employees they’re going to be paid but for the most part many won’t be working. In other words, American is taking the government’s $3.5 billion and complying with the terms by paying people.

  • Since American doesn’t actually need more workers than they already have – furloughs were done with actual demand for flying in mind – it will take months to bring everyone back to work and payroll support only runs through March 31.

    we are returning team members to work in phases based on operational need and administrative processing time required. The first group of team members that is being asked to return to work will receive those notices in accordance with their JCBA. We expect to continue to return team members to the operation in the months ahead.

  • Employees who had their hours reduced will be paid their old full-time rates, but won’t be working more.

    Our intention is to pay active part-time team members who were displaced from full-time status as full-time for the duration of the PSP2 extension, or Dec. 1 – March 31. These team members will continue to hold part-time positions; the adjustment will be for pay purposes onl

  • American will pay non-union employees that they fired, but those employees won’t be coming back to work.

    In accordance with PSP2, management and support staff who were involuntarily separated from the company may be eligible for pay and benefits coverage from Dec. 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021. We will reach out to these former team members directly with more information as it pertains to their individual situations

In most cases subsequent furloughs will require WARN Act notices to be sent two months prior to their effective date, which means new notices could be sent by the end of January. Since many employees will be getting paid but perhaps not yet back to work at the end of January, American Airlines could find themselves sending new WARN Act notices to employees before they’re even brought back to starting working under the payroll support program.

Anyone the airline induced to take a leave in order to reduce the number of employees they’d need to furlough, is out of luck. The federal government is picking up the tab for payroll, but they won’t get paid.

If team members were on a leave of absence at the time of furlough, and haven’t returned or weren’t scheduled to return to work prior to Dec. 2, the terms of that leave will still apply. They will not be receiving additional pay in accordance with PSP2. The company still has the opportunity to bring team members on voluntary long-term leaves back to work as needed to support the operation.

And while payroll support funds require the airline to pay people they don’t actually get their old jobs back. The airline has reduced the number of employees based in various locations, and those stay reduced.

Since payroll support is retroactive to December 1, employees who have been on unemployment find themselves in a complicated situation. For instance, many will not repay unemployment funds received, though in many cases they will be obligated to do so.

The federal government’s second bailout, ‘payroll support’, really is a makework program at best. But since most of the money goes to the airlines themselves, rather than covering the cost of people who were actually furloughed to bring them back to support the economy, none of this is surprising. Paying workers was a tax airlines were willing to bear in order to get billions of taxpayer dollars for themselves and their shareholders.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This just gets dumber by the minute. The “stimulus” bill stimulates everything but business. The Congress should pull the bill back and fix it. If the airlines are not going to work the people they let go then they don’t get the money. How prepared can you be to do whatever they think they are going to need them to do if they are sitting on their couch? The airlines union should change their name to “The Association of Professional Beggars Union!”

  2. Airlines can issue debt or equity.

    If the go under, they reorganize in the Courts.

    If they want taxpayer money, the taxpayers should get equity or debt (loan)

    Airlines are temporarily rehiring laid off workers with the new stimulus package.

    Instead of paying unemployment for these people, the US taxpayer is going to pay them to do nothing.

    How about an infrastructure package to pay people to actually work?

    Free handouts of taxpayer money.


  3. @ C Weston – I agree! Take all that money and pull back all of the money to the foreign countries and fix the roads and bridges in this country. It won’t fix them all but it will at least get some of the fixed. This bill is nothing but insanity on steroids!

  4. I really don’t understand. Why don’t airline employees who were furloughed collect unemployment like everyone else laid off. Most union airline employees will be recalled this summer.

  5. @ John C – Because they are better than everyone else. Don’t you know that? Just read their posts! They can pull you from a burning plane, restart your heart, leap tall buildings with a single bound. That is if they can put their phones and pads down long enough to know there is something going on. Remember, “they are there for your safety!”

  6. When I see an extra $5 million in the bill for Capitol Hill’s private health clinic (a more than 100% increase in its budget) I can see what our representatives priorities are. Most people – take your $600, sit down and shut up. Airline workers are just so special I think they should Payroll Support until they take their last breaths.

  7. And they voted on this POS without being able to read it or understand what’s in it. I’m as pissed as anyone. But this is our fault. We keep voting these bastards back into office. Take a good look at your kids, grand kids, and future generations. They are going to be paying the bill for this.

  8. “They can pull you from a burning plane,” In fact they do. Google OZ 214. That cabin crew are genuine heroes.

  9. @C. Weston – Under PSP1, the government does gain equity in exchange for funds. Not sure about PSP2.

    @John C. – furloughed airline employees, including flight attendants, are eligible for unemployment benefits.

  10. I’m rendered speechless by this Bill and that’s saying something. Am I in America? This Congress should be fired for treason. Billions of dollars to countries like Pakistan, Sudan and Egypt? And yet, they think Trump is the problem. Say goodbye to America, I heard it was once a nice place.

  11. Furloughed flight attendants get unemployment and I guess they will get the Federal Government check for $600 if their salary is under $75,000 like everyone else.

  12. @ Carolynne – It seems to me that AA gave them extra money but I’m not sure I’m 100% correct on that. I think they retained health insurance as well as flight benefits.

  13. @ Joanie Adams – I think there are a lot of people in this country that are shaking their heads and wondering what in the world are the members of Congress thinking? We are $30 Trillion in debt and they are handing out billions to foreign countries that hate us. I can remember when Reagan was president and ran a $450 million dollar deficit and I couldn’t imagine ever paying that back. We do over $3 billion a DAY now. This is insanity on steroids! We are giving billions to the airlines so that the employees can keep their “skills” up and yet they are not going to have them work, just send them money. Maybe their “skills” are collecting taxpayers money? Congress shouldn’t be fired for treason they should be tried for treason.

  14. A very simple truism applies to each and everyone in the corrupt Congress and Administration who signed off/approved anything that allowed this”


  15. OneXMarine, very probable they got flight benefits and medical because a company that big always self insures- it’s cheaper than going through a health insurance company. BTW,. look at 0Z 214 crash mentioned earlier- 2 of the pilots in the cockpit we’re reduced to ground jobs only.

  16. $15billon for 30 000 employees for 3 to 4 months employment for airlines is big waste. Do the math.
    Many other industries are suffering as much as the airlines and they are receiving no help.
    These money could have been added to increase direct payment From $600 to $2000 for individual or increase $600 per week for unemployment.
    The airlines will use most of the $15 billion for executive pay and bonus

  17. @Gary Leff

    “…only 40,000 workers have been furloughed…”

    Gee Gary, such compassion. That’s just 40,000 families right bro? No sweat to you though. Why don’t you ask your source at American Airlines how many of their employees have contracted Covid-19? How many have died? How many across the entire industry?

    And you definitely flunked math in high school.


    Your act is just as stale as ever. You receive Government checks every month, correct? But you would deny it to others in need? Interesting. I think they call that hypocrisy.
    You can take all the issue you want with the aid package and how its constructed but you don’t stop there. You have to go much further and denigrate the entire flight attendant profession. Don’t even try to walk it back. Your contempt leaps off the screen.

    Why not take one of your government checks and get some counseling. You don’t want to die a bitter old man, do you? Again, thank you for your service but why are you so ungrateful?

    Keeping it real,
    Jimmy Mack

  18. Life must be pretty boring for this blogger with the current aviation situation. Employees are getting reconnected to their health insurance, and will be able to pick up extra hours.
    Either is that, or receiving uemployement, plus 300$ weekly like everyone else.
    Get a real job!

  19. The new psp pays 100% of employees in payroll. That includes everyone that hasn’t been furloughed. The airline industry is burning cash to operate on daily basis. Check your facts.

  20. @ Jimmy Mack – I wondered when you were going to crawl out from under your rock. First of all there are around 12,000,000 people unemployed in this country. So in defense of Gary 40,000 isn’t that big of a number. Second – the Airline Professional Beggars Association (APBA)got 26 weeks of full pay while small businesses got 4 weeks of PPP and then had to cut people lose. Now the APBA is getting another 16 weeks and no one is quite sure what the PPP is going to be but at most I would expect no more than 4 weeks. And yes I get a small disability payment from the government. Money I didn’t ask for but they detected something and sent me for an examination. And it’s because I suffer from PTSD and I’m going deaf. My ears ring 24/7, non-stop. And I would guess the APBA members get more in a month than I get in a year. And I’d give up a big dollars if I could get the ringing to stop and have my hearing back. I was also exposed to large amounts of Agent Orange. Go look up all of the side effects of being exposed to that nasty little chemical. So those of us that were exposed to it walk around each day waiting for it to rear it’s ugly little head with some form of cancer, or blindness, etc. And I have a 90% chance of becoming a diabetic. What’s your biggest fear? Getting AIDS? Walk it back? In your dreams. You’ll start seeing the contempt in the passengers eyes when they realize what a sweet deal the APBA received. I’m not bitter in the least but I call a spade a spade and from my point of view the airline industry is a disgrace to the country and all of you should hang in your heads in shame. If you didn’t work for the airlines you’d all be chasing the circus around looking for the clown jobs. Your attitude of being super hero’s is laughable. I’m not a hero by any means but there are 1000’s of them buried all over the world.

  21. Y’all are bitter because every single employee isn’t needed right this very second? We’re still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and it’s still difficult to predict what the future of travel looks like over the next six to twelve months. This buys the airlines the freedom to rebuild in an organized way and bring people back as needed. It buys peace of mind and health insurance for every single furloughed employee and their families. Congress dragged this out for months and you seriously expect the airlines to be able to immediately recall all employees to work? It’s not realistic. Airlines are still losing millions of dollars a day. Millions. This bill does much more than return furloughed employees to the ranks and to work as needed. To imply otherwise is ignorant and irresponsible.

  22. @OneXMarine

    Best thing you can do for ringing in the ears is turn off Fox News.

    I’m worried about your cognitive decline as well.

    I hate to ruin your rant but I don’t work for an airline. I coach basketball. 8th grade girls. I teach them to play with spirit, to compete, to respect both their opponent and the referees. And, to support each other, win or lose. Just ponder that as you gather your next poisonous thought and hurl it at flight attendants. So not only are you factually challenged, you seem willing to make wild-pass assumptions that only reveal your ongoing struggle with reality.

    But let’s discuss your AIDS comment, shall we? Do you find humor with people who suffer from diseases? Are you that cold-hearted? Don’t you have your own health issues? Whatever you’re trying to insinuate there is just a reflection of your black heart. I had you figured out a long time ago. You like to kick people when their down. I guess you find it easy to do with a keypad at your fingertips. But I would expect better than that from a Marine.

    Will you be going to the inauguration on January 20?

    Keeping it real,
    Jimmy Mack

  23. American Airlines in Newark NJ has the worst workers. They are rude and inconsiderate. The reservation person and the lady she was training, need to stay home with pay!

  24. As an airline worker, I am
    happy to see my co-workers catching a break and getting their pay and benefits back. However, I also feel it is not fair that I have to work and get no extra time off or money while people who do the exact same job as me get 4 months of paid days off. They might get 10-16 months of paid days off if the third and fourth bailout happens.

    Getting people access to money and benefits is a good thing but it should also be done fairly. Those getting the money should be working. The company can surely find some tasks for them to do so they arent collecting full paychecks to sit at home.

  25. One marine,
    OK honey, I am an airline worker, and a veteran as well. Big deal, stop vixtimizing yourself. You are not unique.

  26. OneXMarine–did you seriously say that about AIDS? What an ignorant, bigoted comment. You have ZERO credibility and no respectability. You should be ashamed of yourself. The Marines I know would be sickened by such a homophobic remark

    This whole article and thread is sickening. What a bunch of entitled, elitist uneducated trolls…travel expert wannabes who know nothing.

    Gary, you continually lower your own bar. This is not news worthy. What is it that you have against front line employees? Jealous? I appreciate that AA is trying to take care of its own…while you continue your non-stop bashing. If AA had turned down (this yet to be enacted) COVID relief, you’d be bashing them for being heartless.

    Seriously–your obsession with bAAshing is boring….

  27. I agree with you Wesley. As a part time employee, I am being forced to take on the roll of a full time employee, when there are still people that are on leave who haven’t been called back yet. I am sure not being paid as a full time employee, nor receiving the benefits as one.

    I can’t even begin to wrap my head around all this stupidity.

  28. My neighbor who is a pilot and not working cant stop laughing..vacation and big check courtesy of the taxpayer
    .After March they will probably do it again…unions must have powerful lobbyists

  29. @Dashdriver

    I’m happy for your neighbor. None of this was his fault or the fault of any airline. Just as 9/11 was not their fault either.
    But their employees sure got punished for it.

    Most people are not aware that the flight crews who were murdered on 9/11 all had their pensions terminated in bankruptcy court shortly afterwards. Their widows and survivors got diddly squat. Talk about salt in the wound!

    Corporate America can wiggle out of any contract, anytime once they file for Chapter 11.They get over the embarrassment real quick leaving broken families and careers in their wake. Their investors take a hit as well but soon enough a United or American is making record profits again.and that world keeps turning.

    My point to you is the Unions aren’t as powerful as you think.

    Our government’s main task is to protect the American people.
    They failed on 9/11 and they failed again with Covid in 2020.

    Don’t be envious of your neighbor. He didn’t ask for this.

    Keeping it real,
    Jimmy Mack

  30. As an American Airlines employee that’s currently been working EVERYDAY since March is ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGED by employees getting called back and getting paid 4 months of salary to do nothing! Management workers that are not getting called back are getting the same!!

    WAKE UP AMERICAN AIRLINES MANAGEMENT!!!!! What about the workers that are still working? Where’s our bonus? So upset!

  31. @ Jimmy Mack – Once again you’re showing your ignorance. I don’t watch Foxnews. And you could never find a F/A or G/A that I’ve said an ugly word to. I don’t do that. I just read my book or watch a movie or take a nap.

  32. @JB – Yes I did say that. I think Jimmy Mack just like you are a couple of pandering punks who think you have all the answers when you don’t even know what the question is. I doubt if you know any Marines because Marines wouldn’t associate with punks like you and Jimmy Mack.

  33. @Dashdriver – Yes, they all think it’s funny and that they are “deserving” of full pay to do nothing, when they do next to nothing when they work. There are millions of people hurting from all the shut downs etc. and companies are bleeding red ink and they get nothing from the government but thanks to the Airline Professional Beggars Association they get full pay. The laugh maybe on them if this bill doesn’t make it into law. The airlines should all fail or succeed on their own merits just like other businesses.

  34. @ Josh – That is what some people are saying on here. What is the point in paying people full salaries to do nothing when there are millions of people struggling to get by. Unfortunately many of your co-workers feel entitled to preferential treatment because “we are here for your safety.” We have friends in the airline industry that work for AA and they don’t want the people that are gone back. They think that most of the young workers are lazy and arrogant and do nothing to help the airline succeed. I happen to agree with them. Unfortunately the Airline Professional Beggars Association (APBA) have a very big lobby in the Congress.

  35. @OneXMarine

    From your favorite “…pandering punk…, who should be afraid of AIDS…”
    Merry Christmas to you too!
    ….speaking of government money, you forgot to mention your other check. Social Security. So that’s 2 government checks you get every month if you go by my math.

    If you go with Gary Leff math, you’re making $435,000 in 4 months.

    Watch out! You might have a problem with the IRS and then you’ll need some extra money and before you know it, you’re working at the airport. Because as you said, you have many friends in the airline industry. But you also say the airline industry is a disgrace… ,and should hang their heads in shame…”

    So which is it? Your friends? What kind of friends do you have?
    Do they come over and hang their heads for you? Didn’t think so.

    So it has to be you. And tonight we nominated you for President of the AWNC.
    That’s the Association of Whiners N Crybabies.
    Good luck. I’m sure you’ll do very well.

    Keeping it real,
    Jimmy Mack

  36. @ Jimmy Mack (Smack) – Proud of you! You admit you’re a pandering punk! And we should add a lying pandering punk! I’d bet good money you’ve said in earlier posts that you are a F/A and you’ve save 2- 4 lives. And now you say you’re a 8th grade basketball coach? Don’t remember the exact number of lives you claimed to save because I don’t believe you and because your rantings don’t get much attention. Or are you a F/A that is trying to avoid the AA slueth’s that patrol these blogs looking to identify their employees for disciplinary action? Of course I get Social Security, that is not a “benefit.” That has been paid 50% by me and 50% by my employer over the years. For the past 15 years it’s been paid 100% by me since I am my employer. And I pay taxes on a large chunk of it again. I don’t know where you come up with Gary’s math of $435K in 4 months. My friends in the airline industry are ashamed at the way passengers are treated. My comment of the airline personnel should hang their head in shame was in reference to getting full pay for 40 weeks and probably more while people that actually work for a living are losing their business, are laid off and drawing unemployment only. I wonder how many of you trolls on here have ever met a payroll? How many have you have risked every nickle you have to open or buy a business? Had to tell an employee that because of events out of your control that they no longer have a job?

    AWNC? Is that the best you can do? Can’t you come up with something original? And to keep the record straight, which you can’t seem to do, I asked you if you were afraid of AIDS. Didn’t say you had them, didn’t say you should have them, just a question which you and your nut case buddy JB tried to turn around. But it did seem to strike a nerve with you.

  37. Gary,

    I’m an AA employee who was on leave, but got furloughed in October. The terms of our leave were that we get paid 1 hour a day, 5 days a week.

    “They will not be receiving additional pay in accordance with PSP2.”

    We will be paid per the VLOA terms, but not receive additional pay, such as 40 FT or 20 PT hours. I’ve already gotten a paycheck today and I get another one on Dec 31. I also got my recall letter via FedEx yesterday. I don’t expect AA to actually have me return to work at DFW. There are no more bid lines available; where are they going to put us? My buddies are doing 1 flight on a 5.5 hour shift already. People who are currently working (pre-PSP2) are worried that we will all go back to 3 hours, 5 days a week. The union contract stipulates that PT gets 15 hours minimum per week. If that happens, PSP2 will screw them for staying at AA, while everyone on leave or furlough will get screwed by having to quit other jobs to come back.

    For the record, we all expect to get laid off again on April 1st. Booking demand is very weak and nobody is going to be going to Europe this summer, regardless of any vaccine.

    The company completely screwed up the layoff process in September. It looks like the recall process is going to be even worse. Nobody knows what is going on and management hasn’t communicated anything to the union. It’s a clown show.

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