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An American Airlines 737-800 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Craig Fischer)

American Reduces Pilot Workforce by 40 Percent

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced travel demand across the United States and throughout the world. Recently the United States has seen record low numbers of passengers traveling with passenger counts nationwide dipping below 100,000 earlier in the week.

In response to this dramatic drop in demand, airlines have been seeking measures to reduce costs including reducing their workforce. American Airlines has been able to reduce costs by seeking and receiving voluntary leave from its pilot group.
In total 5,515 pilots of American’s 13,800 pilots have accepted some type of leave according to the pilots union group and by the Dallas Business Journal.

This amounts to approximately 40 percent of its pilot workforce. A majority of pilots, 4,800, have accepted a voluntary short-term leave. A further 715 pilots have accepted an early retirement option.

Pilots were also offered the option of a long-term 12-month leave, that would be unpaid, but few pilots accepted that. The short-term leave would either last three or six months and would have pilots receive about two-thirds of their usual pay. The pilots on short-term leave would still have full benefits and would still accrue seniority and vacation time. American has also offered leave to employees in other departments but it hasn’t been revealed as to how many employees have taken the offers.

American has announced that its international capacity will be cut by 60 percent over the summer compared to last year. Many seasonal routes will not be operated and new routes that were planned to start this summer will be delayed by a year. The hardest hit will be the Pacific market with capacity reduced by 80 percent. Transatlantic flights will be reduced by 65 percent and Latin American flying reduced by 45 percent.


  • Daniel has always had aviation in his life; from moving to the United States when he was two, to family vacations across the U.S., and back to his native England. He currently resides in South Florida and attends Nova Southeastern University, studying Human Factors in Aviation. Daniel has his Commercial Certificate for both land and sea, and hopes to one day join the major airlines.

Daniel Morley

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