Nineteen thousand workers at American Airlines and 13,000 at United are getting bad news this week, and they may not be the only ones. The Wall Street Journal reports the two airlines are laying off tens of thousands of employees after Congress was unable to OK a coronavirus relief package for the beleaguered industry. All told, up to 50,000 pilots, flight attendants, counter agents, luggage handlers, and others may be furloughed, NBC News reports. "I am extremely sorry we have reached this outcome," American CEO Doug Parker wrote in a Wednesday memo. "It is not what you all deserve." In its own letter, United pleaded, "We implore our elected leaders to reach a compromise, get a deal done now, and save jobs." In a statement, the president of the union representing US flight attendants noted: "It shouldn't be this hard to do the right thing. ... It did not have to be this way."
The mass layoffs come as an expiration date hit Wednesday: that of a CARES Act provision signed by President Trump in March that paid nearly three-quarters of airlines' payroll costs, as long as all workers stayed employed until Oct. 1. It had originally been hoped that COVID-19 would be brought under control by then and that travel might be back to normal. Senate Republicans haven't yet agreed to the current coronavirus-aid proposal—which includes an extension of airline protections—put up by House Democrats, though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business Wednesday the conversation is ongoing and that "there's money for airlines." Both airlines say they'll reverse their furlough decision if a deal is secured soon. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports tens of thousands of airline workers are signing up for early retirement, buyouts, extended leaves, or slashes in pay. (Read more airlines stories.)