MIAMI – US airline employment is set to fall to its lowest level in decades by year’s end due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a trade group said Thursday.

UPI reported today that employment will drop 90,000 full-time positions by December, according to Airlines for America (A4A) trade group, which represents major US airlines.

Photo: Luca Flores

Lowest Airline Employment Since the 1980s

The 90,000 job losses will bring US airline employment to its lowest level since the mid-1980s by year’s end. This is the result of more than 30,000 furloughs and thousands of other workers accepting buyouts.

Labor unions and passenger carriers have urged Congress to pass a second US$25bn federal aid package to preserve jobs. But lawmakers haven’t reached an agreement on a new stimulus package.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics data that A4A compiled show the drop from pre-COVID peak in March of 460,000 full-time jobs to 370,000 full-time jobs by year’s end. The cuts have come amid a decline in demand for travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demand has improved since the more than five-decade low hit in April. But in the most recent week, U.S. airline passenger volumes were still 65% below year-ago levels, A4A reported.

Photo: Delta Air Lines

COVID Cases Are Surging

Challenges continue in the United States. New cases surpassed 120,000 per day in the most recent week, according to World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. COVID-19-related U.S. hospitalizations are also at an all-time high of about 65,000, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

New cases are also surging in Europe, though they’re trending down in India and Brazil, according to the WHO and CDC data.

Southwest Airlines has been profitable every year since it lost a bit of money its first year in business in 1971. However it expects to post its first huge annual loss and lay off workers in January.

Photo: Luca FLores

But a Vaccine is Coming

Pfizer and partner BioNTech announced earlier this week that their vaccine trial has shown the first scientific evidence that it can block the coronavirus disease in 90% of humans, lifting airline stocks.

“Keep in mind that while developing a vaccine is an important step, widespread distribution will take many months. We continue to expect 2021 will be a year with continued challenges,” Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian said in a staff note. In any case, once the vaccine is ready for delivery, it will be the biggest medical rollout in history.

Featured image: American Airlines aircraft parked. Photo: The Associated Press.