PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Without an extension of federal funding, American Airlines is furloughing 19,000 employees. According to a notice the airline filed with the state, furloughs could impact 1,367 employees at Sky Harbor, where the number of passengers is still down more than 61% compared to the same time last year.
In a letter sent to employees Wednesday evening, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker apologized for the furloughs, but said they are unavoidable. Though furloughs are beginning Thursday, Parker said if a deal is reached to extend the Payroll Support Program "over the next few days," American will reverse the furloughs and recall workers.
"I am extremely sorry we have reached this outcome. It is not what you all deserve," Parker wrote. "We are not done fighting.”
Paul Hartshorn, Jr., a spokesperson for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines workers told 3 On Your Side.
"This is real people with real families that this is affecting all over the aviation industry. They’re going to wake up with no wages of course, they’re going to wake up not knowing when they’ll have health care again," Hartshorn said.
Under the CARES Act, airlines were approved for $25 billion in payroll support. According to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, airlines may receive more money than anticipated after Delta and Southwest arranged private financing and declined to move forward with the federal loans.
“The payroll support and loan programs created by the CARES Act have saved a large number of aviation industry jobs, and kept workers employed and connected to their healthcare, during an unprecedented time,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “We call on Congress to extend the Payroll Support Program so we can continue to support aviation industry workers as our economy reopens and we continue on the path to recovery.”
Hartshorn fears without an extension of PSP funding, airline employees will not be the only ones who will be negatively impacted.
"I'm talking about the tourism industry, the hotel van driver that supports his children and has healthcare through his employer," Hartshorn said. "I’m talking about the food vendors at Sky Harbor airport hat count on american airlines hub to push passengers through there to buy their product. They need a strong aviation industry to succeed."
United Airlines officials told employees the company is moving forward with furlough plans for more than 13,000 employees.