Hawaii’s largest carrier, Hawaiian Airlines, announced on Monday more than a thousand job cuts as the coronavirus-related drop in travel demand and lockdowns continues to create economic woes.
Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO, announced the new cuts in a letter to employees. In the letter, Ingram said furlough notices would be sent Monday to flight attendants and pilots. The company said it would reduce its flight attendant workforce by 816, with 341 of the furloughs involuntary. Hawaiian also said it plans to reduce pilot staffing by 173, with 101 of those reductions involuntary.
The company said furlough notices would also be sent in mid-September to union members with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Transport Workers Union of America. Hawaiian plans to reduce IAM workers by about 1,034 and TWU workers by 18, but so far, does not have the split of voluntary and involuntary layoffs.
“This week we have begun involuntary separations with our non-contract employees following the acceptance of voluntary separation packages over the past few weeks,” Ingram said in a video message to employees. “This is an incredibly painful time for our company and for all of us personally.
Ingram said he’s seen his share of tough times during his 26 years in the airline industry.
“But I haven’t seen anything in that time that compares to the way that this pandemic has hobbled our business,” he said. “We’re forced to take steps now that just a few months ago were unthinkable. I’m sure for many of you there is sadness, some disbelief and anxiety for the future. I share those emotions and more.”
Hawaiian is one of the state’s largest employers and prior to COVID-19 was enjoying a long growth period. From 2005 to March, it had gone from about 3,500 to 7,500 employees, about 90% of whom were working in Hawaii.
Earlier this month when Hawaiian issued warnings of impending cuts, Ingram had said that he hoped involuntary separations would be reduced through voluntary reductions and early retirements. While there were quite a bit of employee sacrifices, they weren’t enough to stave off the latest reductions.
He also had hoped another round of the federal payroll support program, or returning travel demand, would make a difference. So far, neither has materialized.
When Hawaiian announced a few weeks ago that it would start the process of downsizing the airline, Ingram said “the company would survive, but not as we were, not for a while.”
Today he reiterated his belief that the company would survive.
“The airline that is of these islands will continue and those that are leaving our company are still a part of our extended ohana,” he said. “As we move forward, I expect more than just a recovery — Hawaiian Airlines will thrive again.”