The airline CEO faces the Senate panel on flight cancellations after receiving $54 billion in taxpayer assistance

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Airline executives will face a Senate panel on Wednesday about flight disruptions and staff shortages, even though they received $54 billion in taxpayer assistance during the air travel pandemic to help pay for labor costs.

According to written testimony from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the CEOs of American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Delta Airlines will say that assistance helped them through the crisis and that they are now increasing hiring. hearing.

Committee members may ask airlines how they are preparing for the next few months and whether they have to refund customers. This has been the main complaint of passengers.

John Laughter, Delta’s director of operations, said in written testimony: “Although we have seen stable travel across the United States, the Omicron variant of COVID has proven the continued volatility of the pandemic.”

American Airlines lost a record 35 billion U.S. dollars last year, but executives said that the salary support program that prohibits them from layoffs is a bridge that allows them to reach the point where air travel needs start to truly recover.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker wrote in his testimony: “It is no exaggeration to say that the plan saved the aviation industry. Congress and the government see it as a critical infrastructure vital to the economy because it is unique. of.”

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said of the salary support program: “I can summarize the PSP in two words: it works,” according to his written testimony released before the hearing that started at 2:30 pm EST .

Although the airlines receiving assistance were unable to lay off employees, they have drastically reduced the number of employees by urging employees to take voluntary measures, such as buying out, asking for leave or temporarily idle employees in exchange for pay cuts.

Staff shortages have exacerbated daily problems, such as inclement weather, and caused hundreds of flight cancellations when travel demand surged this year. Airlines said they are adding staff as quickly as possible to meet the growing demand.

At Southwest Airlines, headquartered in Dallas, 15,200 employees (25% of the total number of employees) accepted a voluntary program, of which 4,500 left the company permanently. Its current goal is to recruit 8,000 more employees in 2022 on the basis of 5,000 new employees this year.

American Airlines said that after adding 16,000 people in 2021, its hiring target for next year is 18,000 people.

Approximately 17,000 Delta employees accepted the buyout package, and 40,000 voluntarily asked for leave. So far this year, it has added 8,700 employees, some of whom have lower starting salaries than the more experienced employees who choose to acquire.

CEO Ed Bastian said on the October 13th quarterly conference call: “We have introduced a new generation of employees at all levels of the company, so we have received good primary benefits. We have nearly 20,000 people. Retired. A year ago, so high-end… Many of our most experienced employees chose to retire, which provides opportunities for young people.” Bastian said the company has not changed its salary scale.

United Airlines and Delta Airlines are more conservative than the United States and Southwest Airlines in resuming flights.

Chief Executive Scott Kirby said in his testimony: “After cutting our flight schedules drastically at the beginning of the pandemic, we knew it would be challenging to restore all flights at once, so we Decided to gradually increase flights over time.” “Although this option sacrifices short-term profits, it allows us to ensure reliable service and to a large extent avoid the extensive operational challenges encountered by other operators.”


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