Thousands of people will lose their jobs across the country, including some in Green Country as the world’s largest airline reduced its workforce Thursday by 19,000 employees.
It’s a furlough for now at American Airlines, but the future for those employees is uncertain.
Part of the problem for the Tulsa maintenance base is that American has so many planes parked, including the 737 Max, though most of it reflects the drop in demand for air travel. 180 American employees in Tulsa lost their jobs Wednesday.
There are more flights coming into Tulsa International, but it's nowhere near the numbers before the pandemic. All the airlines are downsizing because of lower demand, with American and United starting furloughs Thursday, now that government support has run out.
At the Tulsa base where American Airlines has 4,500 employees, the airline furloughed 180 airframe and overhaul mechanics and aircraft cleaners. With this furlough, American has downsized by 40,000 employees since the beginning of the pandemic.
In Tulsa, the Transport Workers Union is helping employees look for opportunities with American in other cities.
"They can bump into those stations and maintain a job, but others don't have seniority and they will lose a job,” Marla Johnson of the Transport Workers Union said.
American airline furloughed 19,000 employees worldwide, 180 in Tulsa at the maintenance base and airport. CEO Doug Parker emailed employees to say if Congress acts, "we will reverse our furlough processes and recall the impacted team members.”
“Maybe that way we can start recalling some of these guys, because we have had some people leave the property and we'd like that to stop and bring those guys back,” Johnson said.
Whether the job losses become permanent depends in the short term on Congress, and in the long term on when people start flying again.
The airline has gone through buyouts and early retirements to reduce the number of people furloughed, and that wasn't just mechanics that make up much of the Tulsa workforce. Nationwide on Thursday, 1,600 American pilots and 8,100 flight attendants were furloughed.