With empty seats and flight reductions, airlines are facing difficult challenges to keep their airlines operating through this pandemic. One of the options that they are forced to do now is furloughing their junior pilots and frontline employees. The big three legacy airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have all announced and sent out their furlough notices to their employees including pilots. Below is a breakdown of the estimated total number of pilots at each airlines and the number of pilot furloughs that they have announced so far.
The numbers below are only for the big three carriers. It does not include all of the low cost carriers and regional carriers that have sent out their WARN notices to their pilots last month with the intention to furlough them in October. It also does not provide numbers for the other airline frontline workers such as Flight Attendants, Ground Personnels, Customer Service Agents etc. To reference the previous article on WARN notices that were sent out or announced by all the airlines including the regional carriers, click here.
Each of those carriers have offered some type of early retirement options to their senior pilots to mitigate junior pilot furloughs. So the total number of pilots can be inaccurate. However, it is safe to say, that most of these airlines had at the most 2,000 pilots who took the early out option.
How long will the pilots and airline employees be furloughed? That’s a tough call. It depends on whether or not the Cares Act Extension but also the continuous effect from the pandemic on our society and the potential cures or therapy or vaccines that will be coming out hopefully sometime this year or next year. In the past, the furlough recalls can be on average 12 to 18 months. Let’s hope it will be much much less than that for all employees.
One thing that is certain is that this furlough, this time, is much different than in the past. Previous furloughs, pilots could look for jobs at the regional carriers or oversea carriers. Right now, there is not a single airline or company that could absorb the number of pilots who will be out on the street starting in October.
There is one option that airlines could mitigate furloughs for junior pilots. It’s called a Reduction in Average Line Values(by 5 or 10 hours per pilot per month) but paid at the current rates. Of course, some people think it’s a concession. I think it’s because that’s not what it’s always been done.