Alaska Airlines warns Washington state employees of fall layoffs

Alaska Airlines warns Washington state employees of fall layoffs
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Alaska Airlines warned that almost 1,600 Washington state employees could be permanently laid off in the fall as the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on air travel, the company confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday. 

The airline plans to begin letting a portion of its employees go, starting on Oct. 1, the day after the government’s Payroll Support Program terminates.

Companywide, 4,200 employees were given warning notices or laid off, according to a statement. 

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"Reducing our workforce is one of the hardest realities of this crisis," the statement reads. "We’re making tough decisions to right-size Alaska Airlines for future success, but it means we’re losing fantastic people."

The expected layoffs in Washington state represent 20 percent of Alaska Airlines’s workforce in the area, including customer service agents, maintenance technicians and flight attendants. An additional 600 employees in San Francisco and 48 in San Jose also received notices, CBS San Francisco Bay Area reported

The Association of Flight Attendants informed its members that it had obtained 60-day layoff notices for slightly more than 2,000 junior flight attendants across the airline, The Seattle Times reported. The cuts would impact all of Alaska Airlines’s bases in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Anchorage, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The actual number of employees that will be let go in the fall could be lower than the number of notices given out, the airline noted in its statement.

Alaska Airlines said the company “will continue to refine our staffing modeling over the next several weeks and expect figures to be final close to October 1.”

The airline reported that it prevented involuntary pilot furloughs  "through a combination of voluntary leaves and early outs," meaning all pilots will stay employed past Sept. 30.

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Alaska Airlines, like most airlines, is struggling as the coronavirus pandemic continues in the U.S. The airline reported its second quarter saw a net loss of $214 million, compared to last year where the company had a net income of $262 million.  

American Airlines similarly cautioned that it could cut up to 25,000 jobs on Oct. 1 after the federal program expires. 

Unemployment has risen throughout the country as companies attempt to recover from the pandemic and after lockdowns were issued in almost every state. A beefed-up unemployment increase of $600 per week included in the CARES Act and passed by Congress in March expired last week, as Congress continues to debate whether to extend or reduce the assistance.