Airlines, Facing a Painfully Slow Recovery, Begin Furloughing Thousands

Amy Ticknor, a flight attendant who is among the 19,000 people American Airlines is furloughing, spent Thursday filing for unemployment insurance and taking care of her 6-week-old and 2-year-old daughters. She also started searching for a full-time job — her husband is self-employed and her job provided the family with health insurance.

Ms. Ticknor, who is also on the seventh week of a 10-week maternity leave, said she had been heartened by the lobbying efforts of her union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, but was disappointed when it became clear on Wednesday that a second round of federal funding was unlikely.

“It was devastating,” Ms. Ticknor, 29, said. “It was a real a blow to everything, my family life, my emotional well-being.”

Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the country’s other two large national airlines, have avoided sweeping furloughs because of temporary leave and other voluntary programs, at least for now. More than 40,000 Delta workers signed up for short- and long-term unpaid leave. The company has said that it may still furlough about 1,700 pilots next month. Nearly 17,000 employees at Southwest have signed up for leaves, buyouts or early retirement, and the company has said it won’t furlough any worker through the end of the year.

“They have very, very strong corporate cultures and I think those cultures were on exhibit in how these airlines have been able to avoid the furloughs,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel analysis firm. “Delta and Southwest were able to message more effectively.”

American and United have each also taken out Treasury Department loans of more than $5 billion, which could grow to $7.5 billion each at the administration’s discretion. Southwest and Delta declined the loans, which were authorized by the March stimulus law, the CARES Act. Across the industry, airlines have raised billions from a variety of sources.

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Source NY Times

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