By Morgan Story
Amid the Coronavirus outbreak, several companies are struggling to stay afloat. In particular, the airline industry is facing something it’s never experienced before. On March 2nd, Boeing CEO David Calhoun said, “the company should expect a sharp decline in air-travel demand.” This prediction in the beginning of March came to fruition; air-travel is at an all time low according to the Wall Street Journal. Many states across the U.S. have implemented a shelter in place order, meaning that people cannot leave their house other than to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, or other essential businesses. This new order restricts one’s ability to leave their home, therefore air-travel is out of the question.
Big airline companies like Air Canada are laying off thousands of employees due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Air Canada is laying off 5,000 flight attendants. This layoff took effect in the beginning of April and is affecting roughly 60% of flight attendants according to ABC News. Major U.S. airlines have requested a bailout from the government because they are struggling to survive. Airline stocks have dropped dramatically in the past month, so they are turning to the government for help. According to the National Review, Congress agreed to the bailout and offered $29 billion in grants, so long as the airlines won’t cut worker’s salaries or furlough anyone before September 30th, 2020. However, this bailout is only postponing layoffs until September – it will be a while before people feel safe flying again and before this virus comes to a complete end. United Airlines even stated that this bailout won’t be enough to keep them from laying off some of their employees (De Rugy, National Review).
Despite the layoffs, many flight attendants are actually using their skills to help fight COVID-19. Scandinavian Airlines announced a temporary work reduction on March 15th that affected 90% of its employees. However, many of their workers have volunteered their time and skills to help healthcare workers during this time. The employees will change beds, tend to patients and help healthcare officials with their daily tasks, as stated by NPR Radio. Currently these initiatives are only taking place overseas, but U.S. flight attendants have expressed interest – especially workers from American Airlines. The flight attendants partaking in assisting healthcare workers are receiving free accommodations and partial board (NPR Radio). Businesses are coming together to help laid off airline workers and assist them in their endeavors to end the coronavirus alongside healthcare officials.
Speaking of American Airlines, their CEO Doug Parker has decided to give up his salary in order to help pay workers and avoid layoffs for as long as they can, as cited in the Dallas News. Parker will no longer receive a salary or annual bonus, instead his compensation will come entirely from AAL stock. This stock will be earned over time and will depend on how well the company does. Parker stated in an interview, “I believe this is the right way for my compensation to be set – at risk, based entirely on the results achieved and in the same currency that our shareholders receive.” While the airline industry is preparing for a permanent landing, it is acts like these, and those of the laid off flight attendants, that give hope that the airline industry will take off again.