FORT WORTH, Texas - Airlines are starting to furlough thousands of employees after government coronavirus-related aid expired.
There is no deal in Congress at the moment to secure more money and now thousands of North Texans will lose their paychecks.
October 1 was the day the aviation industry has dreaded for months. CARES Act money prevented airlines from furloughing workers, but now 32,000 employees at American Airlines and United Airlines will be affected.
“After being unhappy with my job after graduating college, it was a job that I fell in l love with,” said now former American Airlines flight attendant Breaunna Ross.
She gave a farewell message to passengers just before landing on one of her last flights.
“I will never forget seeing your faces today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the kindness you’ve shown on today’s flight,” Ross told passengers.
There was more emotion from Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, in a message to the organization’s 50,000 members just hours shy of Wednesday night’s deadline.
“I’m angry that they put you through this,” Nelson said, talking about lawmakers failing to agree on a relief package with aid for airlines.
Aviation workers on the front lines of a pandemic said they feel abandoned by the politicians.
“I’m angry that we have to fight this hard to get them to do the right thing,” Nelson said.
Former pilot Chris Manno, who retired in May from American Airlines after 35 years, is an author and now teaching writing at TCU. He said it’s tough to watch what’s happening.
“I know a lot of who’ve been furloughed and it’s very sad for them because they held hope,” Manno said.
American Airlines President Doug Parker told employees if a deal is reached soon they’d reverse furloughs.
But if there’s no deal, Manno says there’s little to no safety net.
“For finding jobs, for retraining, for new assets, for extending somewhat medical benefits of the Allied Pilots Association, which is the union for the 15,000 American Airlines pilots, have some capability to help extend to Cobra and to get retraining and have group seminars for finding new jobs but for the most part aviation is gridlocked at all levels,” Manno said. “There’s just no flying to be had.”
Nelson did express some optimism.
“I have a lot of confidence that this will actually reach an agreement now,” Nelson said.
But Manno is more skeptical, only seeing resolution when there’s a vaccine.
“We are in uncharted waters and I’m not confident,” Manno said. “It’s all going to hinge on whether or not people can and will travel.”