American Airlines announced Tuesday it would be laying off 19,000 employees once federal support expires from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in October.
The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline said it now expects to have 40,000 fewer employees than when the pandemic began this spring, though congressional stimulus money prohibited the company from letting go of staff through the end of September while raking in cash from the $25 billion government bailout set to expire just over a month before the November election.
“We have come to you many times throughout the pandemic, often with sobering updates on a world none of us could have imagined,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker wrote with President Robert Isom to company staff, according to CNBC. “Today is the hardest message we have had to share so far — the announcement of involuntary staffing reductions effective Oct. 1.”
Other airlines, CNBC reported, have pledged to follow suit absent an extension of federal relief from congressional lawmakers. United Airlines said it could lay off as many as 36,000 employees, while Delta Air Lines said it could furlough nearly 2,000 pilots.
The possibility of a second bailout for struggling airlines, operating under dire circumstances in which travel is expected to remain scarce, appears more likely than not given the proximity to election day on Nov. 3. During the CARES Act negotiations in March, Democrats intentionally set the expiration of aid for the end of September to apply pressure on Congress to re-up the airline bailout money as the companies hold thousands of jobs hostage.
Congressional talks for another major round of stimulus, however, have stalled while Democrats and Republicans remain miles apart on negotiations. Democrats are pushing for a $3 trillion package, while Republicans support a more modest proposal of $1 trillion.