MIAMI – After announcing save costs actions, 13,500 American Airlines (AA) pilots and flight attendants agree to take voluntary leave or early retirement in the months of April and May.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA) said that 4,800 pilots across the board will take leave and 715 will receive partial pay and full benefits while 1,500 were granted pay absence during April. According to Dallas News, 40% of AA’s aviators have taken the same decisions.

On its part, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) said that since May, 7,200 flight attendants will take leaves for three, six or 12 months while 760 will take early retirement.

Even though AA is adopting staff cut measures to face the current crisis and have some liquidity during the year, the suddenness of the departure of staff “is a bit unsettling as this wasn’t what any of us had planned,” said the company.

In the meantime, pilots would fly minimum levels and flight attendants would coordinate who flies and who stays at home in the next months.

Conditions of options for staff

The short-term leave offered throughout one, two and six months is about 55 hours for each term, which is equivalent to two-thirds of a pilot’s usual pay while it also includes sick and vacation leave, and seniority requests, as reported Dallas News and pilot unions.

An APA spokesperson said that an extended leave lasting 12 months is also included, but without being payed, so almost no pilots have signed up for it.

In contrast, flight attendants unions said that flight attendants will get paid during their leave for 19 hours per month of their usual 70.

Other conditions include pilots between 62 and 65 years old considered for early retirement approval, and minimum contractual hours for full-time and part-time employees.

Financial effort for company’s sustainability

The agreed measures should help AA to preserve cash flow as it already canceled 80% of its flying schedule for April and May, most recently to the NYC area, with further cuts in June as already it changed its summer flights.

By now, the carrier asked and applied for the US$50bn government package of grants and loans established in the CARES act, which support payrolls. However, to be eligible, the company has to operate a minimum service until September.

Alongside AA, major and small US and worldwide airlines are facing the same scenario, cutting flights and aircraft orders operations; reducing salary payments for staff, executives and stakeholders; and laying off employees.

As the evolution and length of the crisis will determine subsequent actions by airlines worldwide, Airways will continue to report on the developments of the COVID-19 crisis and the commercial aviation industry.