Airlines Asked by Congresswoman: ‘Why the Worker Shortages When You Got a Huge Bailout?’

July 19, 2021

Due to the economic fallout from the Pandemic U.S. airlines were bailed out to the tune of billions AND billions of dollars to keep them afloat.

And even though they appear to be roaring back towards profitability due to a huge rebound in passenger travel numbers, some of the carriers are continually having to cancel and delay flights.

The reason?

They don't have enough employees on the job (although the airlines themselves might not tell you that).

Why is this happening?

A key U.S. senator wants to know.

Letters Sent to American, Southwest, Delta, JetBlue: You Got a Bailout...Why Don't You Have The Workers Needed to Serve Your Customers?

Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, chairs the Senate Commerce Committee overseeing the aviation industry. She wants to know...after $54 BILLION in federal aid contingent on no layoffs, why are so many workers...

...apparently laid off?

"This reported workforce shortage runs counter to the objective and spirit of the (Payroll Support Program), which was to enable airlines to endure the pandemic and keep employees on payroll so that the industry was positioned to capture a rebound in demand," Cantwell wrote in her letters. She added that the "disruptions in air travel have harmed U.S. consumers just as the American economy is rebounding, and the existing airline workforce is being placed under immense pressure to meet demand."

Cantwell also sent letters to the CEO's of the airlines chastising them for poorly managing their workforce and poorly managing an expected (unexpected?) travel surge.

CNN reports that they reached out to the airlines to comment on the letters.

In a statement to CNN, Southwest said it is "staffed for what we're flying and we're flying for what we staffed."

Southwest did not have to lay any employees off, but many took early retirement, buyouts and unpaid leave. Southwest recalled all their flight attendants when booking started heating up.

Southwest maintains that they 'maintained' service:

"We're fortunate to be the only major airline to maintain service at every U.S. airport we served prior to the pandemic, and to have utilized Congressional Payroll Support to maintain staffing (continuing a 50-year history of no layoffs, no furloughs) to support both that continual service, and the flight schedule we built for the summer of 2021."

What's interesting is SkyGoFly had many....MANY discussions on Twitter with Southwest (and other carriers too) flyers who were livid that either their flights were cancelled or were delayed.

Southwest's canned response: 'It's the weather.'

American Airlines had (has?) similar woes with disgruntled flyers that got cancelled on or delayed.

American also went so far as to ask workers to come in and volunteer because they were woefully short-staffed.

So Why the Worker Shortages?

The airlines offered early retirement buyouts and long-term leave. In their defense, they HAD to get aggressive with cost structure cuts. The airline business crashed.

Once the flying public starting running to the terminal, the airlines were caught short-handed.

My problem with carriers such as Southwest is they refused to be honest with their customers. That was shocking to me. Very UN-Southwest-like.

The airlines need to be straight with the the people who fly on their planes. They need to be straight with law-makers. (I know...that's an oxymoron....).

I think it'll take at least the rest of this year (if not longer) to get their (airlines) workflow where it needs to be.

In the meantime they need to do better.