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Massive airline industry job losses loom as critical CARES Act deadline approaches

Employees are in limbo, waiting to see if the federal government will give the industry more aid.

Massive airline industry job losses loom as critical CARES Act deadline approaches
[Photo: Jacky Watt/Unsplash]

As many as 40,000 airline employees are in limbo, waiting to see if the federal government will give the industry more aid.

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The money currently keeping aviation afloat through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act ends today.

In the spring, the U.S. Treasury Department provided $25 billion as part of the Payroll Support Program. To get the cash, the airlines had to promise not to lay off workers through September 30, aka today.

American Airlines has said it could cut as many as 19,000 jobs, and United Airlines is predicting furloughs for close to 12,000 of its workers. Delta Air Lines is also looking at furloughs—for about 2,000 pilots.

Airlines have tried to cut labor costs by implementing measures like reducing employee work schedules, offering early retirement deals, or granting temporary leaves.

The COVID-19 pandemic sent the commercial airline business plummeting by 90%. Leisure and business travel stopped as people grew concerned about being in confined spaces with strangers, even masked. International flights also ground to halt, as many countries closed their borders or required visitors to quarantine.

As the pandemic continues, interest in personal and work-related travel remains low.

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The Geneva-based International Air Transport Association yesterday changed its 2020 travel forecast, which had anticipated 63% drop in air travel compared to 2019. It’s now expecting a 66% decrease.

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