Editor’s note: Alaska Airlines did not respond to our earlier requests for comment. An employee pointed us to updated information and we finally got a response from Alaska, leading to the story below.
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines submitted a letter to the Idaho Department of Labor in July laying out plans to lay off 147 sales agents in Boise at the beginning of October, but a change in plans meant everyone kept their jobs.
Instead of layoffs, the company used a combination of early retirements and extended periods of leave to avert the layoffs and allow employees to return to work later once travel picks up again after it took a sharp dip due to COVID-19, according to company spokeswoman Cailee Olson.
The airline, hit hard by drops in travel due to COVID-19, saw an influx of $992,189,880 in federal aid for airlines from the CARES Act earlier this year. The grants came from the Payroll Support Program designed to support airlines in exchange for the companies not laying off workers. But the aid, and the time period for when companies were prevented from cutting jobs, expired Sept. 30.
“Our business has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” Olson said in a statement. “We’re disappointed the Payroll Support Program (PSP) was not extended before the Oct. 1 expiration date.”
Due to the end of government assistance, Olson said 532 employees were involuntarily furloughed on Oct. 1. This number will decrease a month later when the company will bring 219 flight attendants back to work.
The company announced in June it would begin shedding roughly 3,000 jobs in its 23,000 person workforce according to the Seattle Times. The company is currently borrowing $1.3 billion from the U.S. Treasury due to losses incurred due to the pandemic.
Throughout the company, 720 employees volunteered for early retirement and another 4,468 agreed to voluntary extended leave, according to a release from Alaska Airlines. Of those employees, 400 flight attendants recieved furlough notices, but 101 of those employees were called back to work in areas with low staffing. One hundred and forty seven employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which includes customer service agents, ramp workers and stores agents, were furloughed from full time to part time. Another 28 of those employees were laid off company-wide.
Roughly 200 employees in non-union management positions at both Alaska and Horizon Air were laid off in July, but were paid through Oct. 2 due to the federal assistance. No pilots, maintenance technicians or dispatchers have been furloughed at this time, the company said.
Alaska Airlines is one of the five major airlines flying in and out of the Boise Airport. Other major carriers to Boise also announced national furloughs and layoffs in the past week, including 16,370 cut at United Airlines and 19,000 laid off from American Airlines. Both of these companies also received multi-millions in aid from the Payroll Support Program as well.
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