It could be the worst day in aviation job loss history.
Tens of thousands of airline employees are unemployed as their employers urge Congress to act. Time ran out at midnight on a crucial date that could be devastating for airlines and their employees if the government doesn’t step in to help.
Jim Shilling is more of a bird than a man. He has been flying commercially for almost 40 years since he was 18 years old. But the Bradenton pilot and aviation consultant has never seen the aviation industry in such a dire crisis.
Currently, air traffic has decreased 70% year over year due to the aftershocks of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and as travelers are shy about returning.
“The situation is probably the worst we could have imagined. 9/11 was all we really had to do before, that’s the template we had to use, “he said.” These factors are worse than September 11th could ever have been. “
Shilling hasn’t flown a plane in nine months and he is about to take a 50% wage cut to keep his airline afloat.
“That hurts, people hurt, and they will hurt a lot,” he said.
Nationwide, more than 40,000 airline employees, including pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, counter agents and more, are on leave or laid off.
“We wake up every day not knowing what will happen tomorrow,” said Shilling. “Will the government get through and help us?” That remains to be seen. “
In March, the government gave airlines $ 25 billion through the CARES bill, which helped keep payroll up and running. But the money expired at midnight on Thursday.
Another round isn’t certain as Republicans and Democrats fail to reach agreement on a new COVID relief package.
“Without that [federal money]We’ll see more airlines go out of business, “Shilling said.
It also means a blow to the economy. Thousands of unemployed citizens pay no taxes and are likely to tighten spending. But consumers are also hurt. You may now have a harder time finding certain flights, especially at smaller airports.
“The air is in my blood, I like to do it. I hope that I can continue to do that,” said Shilling.
There are several aftershocks in the industry that the American public may not be aware of, Shilling said. One is the requirement to fly every 90 days to “keep up to date”. Shilling says airlines will have to send pilots back to the simulators if flights are suspended. This is an expensive and tedious process for businesses. Shilling himself had to practice on the simulators to meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
This industry shake can be devastating for pilots too. According to Shilling, this is a niche career where it can be difficult for pilots to successfully shift their careers. If you want to switch to a different network operator, you will encounter other problems.
“If I decided to fly for another airline, there is no sideways movement in the aviation industry,” he said. “If you leave your airline as a captain who flies big planes all over the world and you move on to another airline, you go to the bottom of the seniority list and the bottom of the pay structure.”
Schilling stresses that the industry needs federal government support until consumers return. He believes there is an unfounded fear of risk when it comes to contracting the coronavirus while in flight.
“The air in planes is circulated to a very small extent. It enters through the engines, then enters the cabin as compressed air and that air is filtered out of the tail. All of the air in the plane is exchanged literally every two seconds. Three minutes. It is better air than in your home or office, “he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises on their website, “Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because the air in airplanes is circulated and filtered.”
However, the CDC also states that activities related to air travel may increase your risks, such as: B. Security lines, possibly overcrowded flights, and carpooling and public transportation to and from the airport.
When it comes to layoffs and vacations, airlines say they could quickly reverse course if an agreement is reached within days.