In the absence of a second coronavirus relief package from Congress, both American Airlines and United Airlines said they will begin furloughing more than 32,000 employees on Thursday.
"I am extremely sorry we have reached this outcome," American CEO Dough Parker wrote to employees. "It is not what you all deserve. It is a privilege to advocate on behalf of the hardworking aviation professionals at American and throughout the industry, and you have my assurance that we will continue to do so in the days ahead."
American is cutting 19,000 employees, almost 14% of the airline's pre-pandemic staff. United, meanwhile, is furloughing 13,000 of its workers, most of whom come from its flight attendant ranks. Both carriers have said that if Congress can move on a new stimulus, those jobs could all be saved.
Neither company has sat idly waiting on a bailout package from Washington. It is estimated that thousands of jobs have been spared across the industry by creative buyout, temporary leave, and labor cost reduction measures agreed upon by management and unions.
Still, with losses topping $10 billion in the second quarter of 2020, the road to recovery for the hard-hit airline industry is expected to be even longer than after the attack on September 11, 2001.