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Airlines to bring back thousands of workers if aid bill signed

The bill contains $15 billion for the battered airline industry.
Image: flight attendant
A flight attendant passes out refreshments on a flight from San Francisco to Newark, N.J., in October.Michael Loccisano / Getty Images file

American Airlines and United Airlines say they'll bring back most of the 32,000 industry workers who were furloughed this year if President Donald Trump signs the stimulus bill passed by Congress.

The bill contains $15 billion in payroll support through March for an industry hit hard by travel and business restrictions due to the pandemic, an extension of the $25 billion in relief funding that ran out in the fall.

Trump on Tuesday criticized the bill for not spending enough on stimulus checks to individuals, threatening to derail months of negotiations that he had largely delegated to others.

In a memo released Monday, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said that with th new funding the airline “intends to offer temporary employment to thousands of our team members who were impacted on September 30.”

But Kirby and Hart cautioned that the callbacks are not likely to be permanent.

“The truth is, we just don't see anything in the data that shows a huge difference in bookings over the next few months. That is why we expect the recall will be temporary.”

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom released a statement Monday saying that the extension of the Payroll Support Program “will enable us to bring furloughed team members back to work and resume air service to cities and towns that rely on us — all at a critical moment.”

On Tuesday they issued a memo to employees explaining that the airline plans to bring back nearly 19,000 workers. “While pay and benefits will be restored right away, people will be asked to return to the operation in phases,” they wrote.

Buyouts, early retirement packages and temporary leaves of absence have helped Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines avoid major cuts to their workforce so far, but this month Southwest warned employees that without relief the airline would have to furlough almost 7,000 employees.

All airlines are feeling the pinch. The International Air Transport Association predicts deep industry losses to continue through 2021.

Still, while the Centers for Disease Control and Protection is urging Americans to stay home this holiday season, over the past week TSA has been reporting an uptick in the number of passengers screened at U.S. airports to about a million passengers a day.

Travel agency AAA predicts 2.94 million people will travel by air over the holiday period, about 60 percent fewer holiday flyers over last year.