Hawaii’s largest carrier, Hawaiian Airlines, has reduced involuntary furloughs; however, due to a worsening economic outlook has increased its overall workforce reduction to 2,501 jobs.
By Oct. 1, Hawaiian’s projected workforce will be 4,946, down from 7,447 employees. The reduction includes 1,850 voluntary cuts and 466 involuntary cuts for Hawaiian’s unionized employees, including flight attendants, pilots, IAM, and TWU workers.
In addition, Hawaiian also cut 185 non-union, administrative positions, mostly by not filling vacancies and through voluntary separations.
The cuts are up from what was detailed in an amended Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification Act letter that Hawaiian filed with the state on Wednesday. In the letter to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Hawaiian Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer Aaron J. Alter said the company was able to reduce the involuntary furloughs that were set to take place no later than Oct. 1 from 2,037 to 192 of the company’s union employees..
Prior to COVID-19, Hawaiian was one of the state’s largest employers and 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.
Hawaiian spokesman Alex Da Silva said in an email to the Star-Advertiser that the layoffs effective Oct. 1 were predicated on Hawaii’s tourism reopening in August or September. On Thursday, Gov. David Ige delayed the start of a pre-arrivals testing plan to Oct. 15.
The testing program allows travelers who have taken a Food and Drug Administration-approved COVID-19 NAAT test from a CLIA lab and tested negative within 72 hours of traveling to Hawaii to bypass a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for out-of-state passengers that’s been in place since March 26.
Wednesday’s actions did not change the interisland quarantine, which remains in place through at least Oct. 15 for anyone arriving on any island other than Oahu. For more information, visit the frequently asked questions at hawaiicovid19.com.
Though the carrier has not made further plans for reductions, Da Silva said it views “the outlook for Hawaii tourism as having worsened with the further delay of the pre-travel testing program.”
“We are encouraged that the state has announced a program launch date of Oct. 15,” he said.”We believe that people want to travel to Hawaii, and we are confident that as a visitor industry we have the right protocols to protect our community and safely welcome travelers. We are hopeful that the roll-out of pre-travel testing will allow us to avoid further reductions in the size of our team.
Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO had said from the beginning of Hawaiian’s COVID-19 struggles, that he had hoped involuntary separations would be reduced through voluntary reductions and early retirements. He also had hoped another round of the federal payroll support program, or returning travel demand, would make a difference.
“The number of employees who elected to accept voluntary leaves and early retirement is a testament to their spirit of ohana and sacrifice,” Da Silva said.
“We offered a range of packages for employees in each major work group, as part of our commitment to seek voluntary options before resorting to furloughs, and we appreciate employees who were in a position to be able to accept these offers and as a result reduce the number of colleagues who are leaving us involuntarily,” he said.
The carrier had participated in the federal payroll support program, which helped protect jobs through the end of September. There’s been a proposal brought forward by the major national unions, including the unions representing Hawaiian’s union employees, to extend the program from October to March.
Capt. Larry Payne, chairman of the Hawaiian Airlines Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), said in a statement, “With the airline industry and the Hawaiian tourism industry enduring the worst crisis in our history, we urge Congress and the president to quickly pass an extension of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to extend financial support to airline employees and other workers for an additional six months.”
“This crucial legislation will provide valuable time for medical therapies currently under development to begin showing results as we collectively work to end this pandemic,” Payne added.
This is a breaking news story so it will be updated when Hawaiian Airlines is able to provide the count of employees that accepted voluntary reduction offers.