American Airlines warns it is overstaffed by 8,000 flight attendants

American Airlines Group will initiate early-out programmes to minimise the need for furloughs.
American Airlines Group will initiate early-out programmes to minimise the need for furloughs.PHOTO: REUTERS

BENGALURU (REUTERS) - American Airlines Group warned it is overstaffed by about 8,000 flight attendants and might reduce its workforce through early retirement and voluntary leave as the carrier looks to weather a hit to business from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company will reduce its international and transcontinental crew to the minimum required by the Federal Aviation Administration, plus one flight attendant, effective from Oct 1, 2020, Jill Surdek, American Airlines' vice-president of flight service, said in a letter to employees on Wednesday (July 1).

US carriers have warned that furloughs could take place in October, when the government payroll aid for the airline industry expires, but said they were hoping to avoid them.

"While we hope our customers continue returning to the skies in the coming months, the reality is that this pandemic has changed our business for years to come," Ms Surdek said.

The company said it would initiate early-out programmes to minimise the need for furloughs and would address the excess numbers in the coming weeks.

Last week, American Airlines said that avoiding furloughs will be difficult and it expects to have between 10 per cent and 20 per cent more workers than needed in July 2021.

Earlier in the day, rival JetBlue and pilots' union Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), reached an agreement to avoid involuntary furlough until May 1, 2021.

Separately, American Airlines said on Wednesday it expects its summer 2021 long-haul international capacity to be down 25 per cent compared with 2019, as it sees significantly lesser business from its international market.

"The Covid-19 has forced us to re-evaluate our network," chief revenue officer Vasu Raja said, adding that the company will have a significantly smaller international network in the year ahead.

The carrier had initiated a phased suspension of nearly all long-haul international flights in March, as the airline industry took a hit from reduced demand and travel restrictions due to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.