Steve Mnuchin said the coronavirus impact on the airline industry is “worse than 9/11.”
Thousands of American Airlines pilots and flight attendants have accepted offers for voluntary leave and early retirement as commercial air travel has plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Unions representing flight crews for American, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, said the company offered short-term leave packages ranging from one month to a year, with all keeping their benefits, and most at least some of their pay.
American also offered pilots and flight attendants the option of retiring early with full benefits and partial pay.
More than 700 American pilots accepted the early retirement offer, according to the Allied Pilots Association. Those pilots will receive 50 hours of pay per month and full benefits beginning at age 62 until age 65. A typical month pays pilots 85 to 90 hours.
More than 4,800 American pilots accepted voluntary leave offers, ranging from one to six months. All will receive full benefits, and most will receive 55 hours pay per month. Most must maintain landing and simulator training to keep their ready-to-fly status.
American has a total of more than 15,000 pilots represented by the union.
“These men and women have been with our airline through thick and thin and have led us through so many important moments in our airline’s and our industry’s history,” the union said of those retiring early in a message to pilots. “The suddenness of their departure is a bit unsettling as this wasn’t what any of us had planned.”
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents more than 27,000 American Airlines flight attendants, said nearly 8,000 of its members have accepted early retirement and leave offers ranging from three months to a year.
They will receive full benefits and some of their monthly pay. The union did not have an immediate breakdown of how many flight attendants accepted each type of offer.
“The company continues to work on options that adjust to lower demand and to do what’s best for team members,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for American.
Domestic air travel is only a fraction of what it was a year ago. According to the Transportation Security Administration, only 90,510 travelers went through airport security checkpoints on Easter Sunday, compared with 2.4 million a year ago.
Airlines, including American, have parked hundreds of planes and canceled thousands of flights in response to reduced demand during the coronavirus pandemic. At least 100 American flight attendants and 41 pilots have tested positive for the coronavirus.
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