American Airlines plans to hire 18,000 people next year for travel rebound

American Airlines plans to hire 18,000 people next year for travel rebound

An airline employee walks past empty American Airlines check-in terminals at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | Getty Images

American Airlines is planning to hire 18,000 workers in 2022, on top of thousands of new employees this year to cater to a rebound in travel, CEO Doug Parker plans to tell lawmakers Wednesday during a hearing about flight disruptions in recent months.

The CEOs of American, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines‘ chief of operations will face questions from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about mass flight cancellations and staffing struggles despite roughly $54 billion in federal payroll aid doled out to the airline industry to soften the pandemic’s impact.

American and Southwest canceled hundreds of flights during short periods this fall, as they struggled with staffing shortfalls and bad weather. Both carriers have turned to incentives like extra pay or bonuses to avoid repeats during Thanksgiving, which went smoothly, and Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Airlines during the pandemic urged thousands of workers to voluntarily take buyouts or leaves of absence to help cut their labor bills since the aid package prohibited them from laying off staff.

Now they are scrambling to add workers after travel demand returns, competing in a tight labor market that has impacted retailers, restaurants, hotels and other industries.

American, which has about 130,000 employees including its regional-airline subsidiaries, has hired more than 16,000 employees this year, such as pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and reservations agents, Parker said in written testimony ahead of the hearing.

“We believe this positive momentum will continue into next year, as we’ve set a target of hiring an additional 18,000 team members in 2022,” Parker said in his testimony. “Each time we add to our ranks, it’s like a dividend payment on the investment made in our team through the [payroll support program]; instead of building back from collapse, we’re growing to provide more promising careers in good-paying jobs to hard-working individuals who are the lifeblood of our nation’s economy.”

Southwest says it plans to hire more than 8,000 employees in 2022 after adding about 5,000 this year.

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