Some pilots for Spirit Airlines will take a voluntary leave of absence or have their work schedule temporarily reduced as its union reached an agreement with the carrier to avoid layoffs.
Almost 600 of Spirit’s estimated 2,500 pilots were at risk of being furloughed, according to the financial publication The Motley Fool.
It was welcome news for the battered airline industry, which has seen a precipitous drop in demand for travel since the coronavirus pandemic hit in February. Airlines were able to muddle through the spring and summer after accepting a total of $50 billion in aid through the CARES Act stimulus package in March.
One of the provisions of the CARES Act was that carriers could not involuntary furlough or lay off employees until October 1. That restriction expires in five weeks and, by some estimates, nearly 70,000 airline workers in the U.S. could lose their jobs.
The Motley Fool noted that it is vital to avoid layoffs but especially so for pilots. Furloughed pilots need to undergo an extensive and costly retraining process when they are recalled to work. Depending on the amount of time they are furloughed, some pilots might not be able to return as quickly as others when demand returns.
Spirit and its chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association reached the agreement earlier this week. The voluntary leaves by pilots mainly cover the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. Other than heavy holiday travel around Thanksgiving and Christmas, these are generally weaker parts of the flying year.
The hope, The Motley Fool noted, is that air travel demand will recover sufficiently by next spring and certainly by next summer.
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