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Airlines Are Furloughing. Here’s Why the Payroll Support Program Matters

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and a United Union Representative Working on a Payroll Support Program Extension With Congress

In the aftermath of the world’s worst travel crisis, airlines around the globe are scrambling to survive. Unfortunately for those of us on the lower decks of this titanic industry, there just aren’t enough life boats. This cruise, the one we’ve dreamt of and worked relentlessly to join since childhood, is abandoning us in cold, cold waters. Our rescue mission, the Payroll Support Program (Treasury PSP), ended on October 1st as Congress remained unable to come to an agreement on an extension.

Like most in the aviation industry, I’ve wanted to fly since I can remember. Instead of playing Call of Duty growing up, my medicine of choice was Microsoft Flight Simulator. This is no love story though; it’s been a fortune and a fortnight making it to where I am now. There are nearly 40,000 other victims of the industry who could say the same thing.

Delays Coming to a Flight Near You

These furloughs aren’t just affecting airline employees, they are taking passengers like you hostage with them. Hear me out. On October 1st, the Payroll Support Program keeping 32,000 aviation employees employed ended, creating a first wave of furloughs, and there are more coming. Airlines, losing tens of millions of dollars per day, are desperate. The airlines that are using furloughs, the most desperate ones, will be furloughing as many employees as they can. Otherwise, the cost-savings (when training costs are factored in) just aren’t high enough.

Don't you love gate 35X at Washington Reagan? Airlines and their pesky delays...
An arrivals and departures board showing delayed and canceled flights at Washington’s Reagan National Airport . (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

Running the operation to the wire means that airlines won’t have the same number of reserve pilots and flight attendants they would have with the Payroll Support Program. These ‘reserves’ sit on-call, ready to jump in whenever need dictates, such as when crews time out due to weather or mechanical delays. This means that if you’re flying anytime soon, you may find yourself basking in additional long, rolling delays and cancellations on the airlines that have furloughed most of their ‘reserves’.

RELATED: Is Flying During COVID-19 Safe?

Which Airlines Are Guilty?

Here are the airlines are furloughing without an extension of the Payroll Support Program, and the numbers of employees they are shedding:

  • American Airlines: 19,000 employees
  • Alaska Airlines: 450 employees
  • Delta Air Lines: 1,941 employees
  • United Airlines: 13,000 employees
United Airlines Flight Attendants who are now jobless.
United Flight Attendants Picketing on Capitol Hill; US News and World Report
I’m Not Flying Anytime Soon… Why Should I Care?

It’s not just about airline employees – the economy depends on an airline industry that excels in connecting the country internally and with the rest of the world. The airline industry, if weakened, will affect our day-to-day lives – from how quickly your paycheck arrives in the mail, to when your amazon package is delivered, to that next business trip you were excited for (or not). It directly and indirectly supports over 70 million jobs around the world – including but not limited to aerospace engineering, aircraft manufacturing, and tourism jobs. The overall economic impact aviation has is estimated at close to $3 trillion ($3,000,000,000,000). Take that, Bezos.

There Is a Way We Can Stop This…

The ‘Payroll Support Program’, which ended on October 1st, is our saving grace. As the name implies, this is intended not as a bailout for airlines, but as additional life boats to save those currently caught in the storm. The money from the Payroll Support Program goes to employ/not furlough the many employees who have extremely specialized jobs, jobs slaughtered by the endless travel restrictions and red tape we face today. Tens of thousands of us caught together in a tornado of similarly-qualified candidates all fighting for jobs that no longer exist, many of us with mostly non-transferable skills that we spent six-figures and years obtaining. An extension of the Payroll Support Program would carry us at least until March.

It’s Not a Bailout, It’s a Path Forward

Even though the Payroll Support Program isn’t a bailout, it supports the strength and resilience of the airlines’ staffing and enables a quick response once travel starts going back to normal. In addition to having the staffing to support an increase in frequency and reach within the United States, the Payroll Support Program would enable our airlines to rapidly capture international market share and capitalize on a quicker-than-expected recovery, thus catapulting the US economy ahead of the rest of the world.

Conclusion

Tens of thousands of airline employees are facing their worst nightmare. Because of it, you can expect a lot more delays and cancellations. The Payroll Support Program is the only real hope, for them, for you, and most importantly, for the recovery of the airline industry and our economy.

Save our jobs, save our country. Support the Payroll Support Program.

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