In what looks exciting and a relief to affected workers. The American Airlines has sent recall letters to all 17,500 union employees who were furloughed in October even as Congressional and White House leaders negotiate over the $900 billion pandemic relief bill.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines sent email recall letters on Tuesday to every employee who was furloughed in October.
The airline also sent more than 8,000 paper recall letters to flight attendants and some other union members who are required to get paper notices.
American is moving forward with bringing back workers even though President Donald Trump signaled Tuesday that he wasn’t happy with the COVID-19 economic stimulus bill passed by Congress Monday, directing lawmakers to come back with bigger direct payments for Americans. Still, airlines are looking at that as more of a delay than a rejection as lawmakers consider the bigger stimulus checks.
Actually bringing employees back could take months.
“Bringing nearly 19,000 team members back to work is a complex process and will take time,” American CEO Doug Parker and president Robert Isom wrote in a letter to employees. “While pay and benefits will be restored right away, people will be asked to return to the operation in phases.”
In the meantime, employees will start getting paid and can get in line for any training that may be necessary to get them ready to work again.
The stimulus relief bill gives $15 billion for airlines to cover about 75% of employee costs between Dec. 1 and March 31. That means furloughed workers are eligible for back pay. American is likely in line for about $2.8 billion in grants and another $1.2 billion in loans.
What the stimulus doesn’t change is the demand for flights from passengers. Airline traffic is still down 60% to 70% compared with a year ago, even with steeply discounted airfares and customer-friendly policies like no change fees.
American Airlines flight operations leader Kimball Stone told pilots in a letter that “We expect to continue to return employees to work in April and throughout 2021.”
American Airlines furloughed more than 1,200 pilots and 8,000 flight attendants, and many of them will need training when they return.
“We’ve been getting a lot of questions about how quickly people will be brought back, and right now we are not sure,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association. “What we do know is that everyone is looking at this summer as to when travel demand starts to come back.”
The first group of 3,000 flight attendants is expected to return to work around March 2 after training in January and February, said Paul Hartshorn, a spokesman for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.
American has begun processing paychecks for furloughed workers, and they are expected to be deposited in back accounts by Thursday for Christmas Eve. The company is also reaching out to employees to make sure their personal, contact and benefits information is up to date.
“In the meantime, stay close, know you will be paid and that your benefits will be reinstated,” Stone said in his letter.