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(Photo: Yahoo)

American Air to cut 30% staff amid travel decline

(Photo: Yahoo)

American Airlines Group Inc. will cut 30 per cent of its management and support staff, or about 5,100 jobs, as it continues to shrink operations in response to the dramatic decline in travel brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

An American Airlines aircraft. (Photo: Yahoo Finance)

The carrier also plans to detail a revamped officer team as the company shrinks “for the foreseeable future,” Elise Eberwein, American’s executive vice president of people and global engagement, said in a letter to employees late Wednesday. The airline said it hopes enough management and administrative staff will volunteer to leave under a new program available through June 10 to avoid forced layoffs.

The coronavirus outbreak and subsequent travel restrictions have put airlines the world over under immense pressure. United Airlines Holdings Inc. said in early May it plans to cut at least 30 per cent of its managerial and administrative jobs, while several carriers elsewhere have collapsed or sought bankruptcy court protection, including Latin America’s biggest this week.

“Although our pre-pandemic liquidity, the significant financial assistance provided by the government, and the cash we’ve raised in the capital markets provide a foundation for stability, we need to reduce our cost structure, including our most significant expense — the cost of compensation and benefits,” Eberwein wrote.

American fell 4.1 per cent to $11.49 at 9:48 a.m. in New York. The shares have fallen 58 per cent this year through Wednesday, the second worst performance in a Standard & Poor’s index of the five largest US carriers. Only United Airlines Holdings Inc. has fallen more, with a decline of 65 per cent.

Bankruptcy isn’t among the options American will consider, Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said Wednesday, seeking to quell speculation that the airline could seek court protection. “Bankruptcy is failure,” he said. “We’re not going to do that.”

Other cost-saving steps include requiring management and support staff to take 50 per cent of their vacation by Sept. 30, not allowing untaken days to roll into 2021 and cancelling a short-term incentive pay plan.

A grounded American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 is towed to another location at Miami International Airport on March 13, 2019 in Miami, Florida.
(Photo0 Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America)

About 39,000 American employees already have taken voluntary leave or early retirement, and American will offer a second round of such programs next month. The carrier already has slashed flying, parked aircraft, frozen hiring and taken other steps to reduce spending as travel demand virtually disappeared in April. The airline also has permanently pulled more than 100 mostly older planes from its fleet.

Travel demand “definitely” has improved recently, with American’s load factor, or average number of aircraft seats filled, climbing to 56 per cent over the Memorial Day holiday from 15 per cent in April, Parker said Wednesday. The airline is flying only 20 per cent of its schedule compared with a year ago. Other carriers also recently commented on slight improvements in travel demand as states ease restrictions and tourist attractions begin to reopen.

The global airline industry’s total debt could balloon 28 per cent this year to $550 billion, which includes $123 billion in financial aid from governments, the International Air Transport Association said Tuesday.