Frontier and Spirit Airlines Send Furlough Notices to Workers

The American ultra low-cost airline, Frontier and its counterpart Spirit Airlines has released a warning notice of 35%  furlough of its flight attendants and pilots during the first two weeks of October.

In a letter sent to workers, Frontier’s Vice President of Human Resources notified staff of their expected status and did not elaborate on any details. The message confirmed that the airline anticipates the unpaid furlough to be permanent, or at least for a period of six months.

The airline currently employs 2,634 flight attendants and 1,590 pilots, including 758 captains and 823 first officers. Out of the airline’s 4,224 airborne employees, 925 flight attendants and 559 pilots were sent furlough letters according.

Frontier Airlines is required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act to send written notices to employees 60 days prior to the intended furlough date. According to federal law, a WARN notice must be sent when an airline employing over 100 people plans to furlough or lay off over 50 employees at a single site.

Frontier Airlines received funding from the CARES Act in April after 10 airlines signed letters of intent with the U.S. Department of the Treasury for $25 billion in financial aid. As part of the deal, Frontier Airlines is unable to layoff any employees prior to Oct.

As part of the CARES Act, airlines were required to maintain service to all their destinations up until June 21, with certain exceptions. Frontier Airlines requested to suspend services to 33 destinations in April following a sharp drop in passenger demand. The airline was only granted three of the exceptions, all of which were major airports.

While on the same day Spirit Airlines flight attendants and pilots across the U.S. also received furlough notices. The airline plans to furlough between 20% to 30% of its workforce in October when the federal payroll protection under the CARES Act ends.

Over 8,900 people are currently employed by the airline, with an estimate of 2,650 pilots and flight attendants are at risk of losing their jobs. Spirit took approximately $344 million in federal grants and loans. With air traffic not expected to reach 2019 levels in the near future, the airline is not expected to need its entire workforce come October.

The airline sent furlough notices to 79 pilots and 159 flight attendants, according to a report. Dallas-Fort Worth is Spirit’s fifth-largest operating base, according to 2017 weekly departure numbers.

Despite sending furlough notices, U.S. ULCCs have argued that they are best-positioned to recover thanks to their low operating costs and focus on leisure travelers. Spirit posted a $144 million loss in the second quarter and plans to cut capacity by 18% in August compared to July numbers.

More airlines that took money from the CARES Act may send furlough notices as demand for travel struggles to grow back towards pre-COVID-19 numbers. United Airlines has sent the most notices to date to over 36,000 employees across its network. American Airlines has sent 28,000 furlough notices to employees, while Delta seeks to cut pilot minimum pay in an effort to avoid furloughs for at least one year.

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