Thousands of American Airlines employees could be furloughed by April, company warns

American Airlines warned employees Wednesday of possible furloughs in April, saying COVID-19 vaccines were not being distributed as quickly as it expected.

The airline employs about 133,700 people in the U.S., according to Forbes estimates.

“We fully believed that we would be looking at a summer schedule where we’d fly all of our airplanes and need the full strength of our team,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said in a letter to employees obtained by USA TODAY.

Any job cuts would take effect after government payroll aid expires April 1.

“We will fly at least 45% less in the first quarter compared to what we flew for the same period in 2019, and based on current demand outlook, we will not fly all of our aircraft this summer as planned,” the company said.

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Some furlough notices will go out on Friday to employees in areas where it is required by law. The notices do not equate to automatic furlough, the company said.

American Airlines said it would offer a voluntary early-out program Friday and a long-term voluntary leave-of-absence program for front-line, U.S.-based team members, excluding pilots.

The airline industry has taken a massive hit from the global pandemic. American Airlines furloughed employees in October. Two months later, Delta Air Lines asked more employees to take unpaid leaves of absence.

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