Airline industry continues to struggle during the pandemic

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — American Airlines, the world’s largest airline, announced Tuesday that more than 19,000 employees will be laid off unless they get more federal help.

U.S. air travel plunged 95 percent by April, a few weeks after the first significant coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

In Columbus, American flew 190,750 passengers in June of last year. A year later, in the midst of the pandemic, only 38,409 people flew in June — an 80 percent drop.

“I think it’s very sad. But we are in times right now that are beyond our control,” said Laurie Fleming who was leaving Columbus for her home in New York.

While Fleming feels bad for the employees impacted, she said she enjoyed having a plane to herself.

“It made me feel safer because the flights were empty,” she said. “If they were packed and I had to sit next to someone, I would have been very concerned. I might have drove.”

NBC4 spoke to one American Airline technician who asked to stay anonymous.

He says he just received notice of layoffs starting as soon as this week.

“The technical operations crew? They’re the maintenance to ensure the aircraft are safe, fly in the air and sign the log books,” he said. “We got a letter stating that on August 27 they’re going to start the first round of furloughs, with up to 800 employees furloughed across the system in American Airlines.”

The employee is concerned about his chances of surviving the furlough but also knows how bad the situation is right now.

“I’ve only been here seven years so I could go at anytime, and it’s not my first rodeo,” he said. “It’s the times that are happening with the corona and everything. It’s just part of the job. We all understand it. It’s been kind of difficult. Seeing the numbers down on the airplanes and stuff, it gets kind of heart wrenching to not see the people fly.”

Despite the cuts coming to technicians, the employee says flights will stay safe.

“I don’t think it will impact anything. They’ll just park airplanes and then reduce,” he said. “We’ve parked over 450 airplanes. So, we’ve moved them. Right now we have a skeleton crew maintaining the airplanes. For every airplane, there’s two mechanics employed. So when they park airplanes, it won’t be a safety factor. It’ll just reduce the flights.”

American and other airline companies are lobbying Congress for more financial help.

They received $50 billion in March from the CARES Act, which contained a provision that no employees be laid off until October 1.

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