A United Airlines aircraft takes off over American Airlines aircraft on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on October 1, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images
U.S. airline employment will soon fall to its lowest level since the mid-1980s, driven by the devastating impact of the pandemic on the sector, an industry group said Thursday.
Airlines will have shed the equivalent of around 90,000 jobs by year-end, including more than 30,000 vacation days with airlines like United and American that started last month and the departure of thousands of other workers who have accepted acquisitions by Southwest, Delta and other airlines .
Passenger jets and their employees' unions have repeatedly pushed Congress for a second federal aid package of $ 25 billion to keep jobs through March, but Democrats and Republicans have failed to reach an agreement on a new national stimulus package for coronavirus, or just for that Affected Sector.
According to Airlines for America, a trade group that represents the major US airlines, the industry's workforce will decrease from 460,000 in March to around 370,000 full-time positions in the fourth quarter.
Air travel demand has started to recover from more than five decades lows hit in April at the start of the pandemic, but it remains a fraction of last year's levels. Since the beginning of October, the Transportation Security Administration has examined 34 million people, a decrease of nearly 65% from 97 million people who passed airport checkpoints at the same time last year.
Thanksgiving will only generate a modest spike in demand, and airline executives on Thursday highlighted the ongoing challenges the company is facing in the pandemic.
Airlines for America announced that US airlines' Thanksgiving week capacity will decrease nearly 39% year over year, compared to a 47% decrease in the first two and a half weeks of November.
Southwest said Thursday that sales rebound on bookings in November and December seemed to be slowing.
"While the company expected the choice to affect trends, it is unclear whether the weakness in booking trends is also a direct result of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases," Southwest said in a press release. "Therefore, the company remains cautious in this uncertain sales environment."
Ed Bastian, Delta CEO, noted the optimism following the positive results of a Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine study published this week. That news sent airline stocks skyrocketing, but warned that the industry is not out of the woods.
"Remember that while developing a vaccine is an important step, it will take many months to spread, so we continue to expect 2021 to be a year of ongoing challenges," he said in a staff report.