US airlines are laying off thousands of employees as federal relief ends

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Air travel has been hit by reduced demand during the pandemic

US airlines have begun laying off thousands of workers after efforts to negotiate a new economic relief plan faltered in Congress.

American Airlines says it has pulled 19,000 workers and United Airlines says 13,000.

Carriers – hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic – say they are prepared to backtrack on decisions if more funding is found.

Airlines have received billions of dollars from the federal government.

Congress approved the agreed aid earlier in the year as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act [Cares Act]. It was conditional that the tankers did not lay off workers until October 1.

Airlines around the world have been hit by the massive drop in demand due to the pandemic.

In a letter to employees announcing the layoffs, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said: “I am very sorry we came to this conclusion. This is not what they all deserve.”

On Wednesday, United Airlines, in a letter to its employees, said it is appealing to “our elected leaders to compromise, do a deal now, and save jobs.”

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Media explanationCoronavirus: How to Fly During a Global Pandemic

“In an ongoing effort to give the federal government every opportunity to act, we have made clear to the leadership in the administration, Congress and among our union partners that we can and will reverse the clearance process if the Cares Act payroll support program is extended in the next few days.”

She added: “To our departing family members: I thank you for your dedication and we look forward to welcoming you again.”

The layoffs added to the pressure on Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who were trying to agree on a follow-up relief plan for the ailing US economy.

The Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, are pressing for a $ 2.2 trillion (£ 1.7 trillion) package while the White House wants to keep it at $ 1.6 trillion. It includes the latest $ 20 billion bid for troubled airlines.

On Thursday, Democratic House of Representatives debated the impasse. But the Senate was postponed until Monday evening, Reuters reported, indicating that an end to the impasse was not soon.

“The distance in key areas remains,” a Pelosi spokesman said, after a 50-minute phone call with Mr. Mnuchin on Thursday afternoon.

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