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Milwaukee hit by massive airline industry layoffs

Tower Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport
United Airlines layoffs and furloughs
Posted at 5:47 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 18:47:03-04

MILWAUKEE — This could be the worst day for layoffs in the history of aviation. Ten of thousands of jobs are expected to be eliminated across the country. Hundreds of people are expected to be laid off in Milwaukee

“Families are devastated,” said Ken Diaz, president of United Master Executive Council of the Association of Flight Attendants.

Diez represents flight attendants for United Airlines. He says 13,000 of their members are facing some sort of furlough or lay off.

“We also had 356 of our flight attendants that lived in Wisconsin, 40 right in Milwaukee,” said Diaz.

United Airlines layoffs and furloughs
United Airlines lays off thousands of workers, hundreds just in Wisconsin alone. (Monday, June 22, 2020, in Denver, AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The airlines blame the layoff on the end of the CARES Act. It is the stimulus passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and it ran out at midnight on Oct. 1. With no extension plan approved by Congress, the union says the airlines had no choice.

It is not just flight attendants. There are layoffs happening across the board.

“It’s ground crew, maintenance, pilots, basically anyone who works for the airlines,” said Mark Kass, editor-in-chief of the Milwaukee Business Journal. “You are talking about hundreds of workers who work at Milwaukee’s airport an it’s a sizable amount.”

Tower Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport

Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport has seen a massive drop in passenger numbers since the start of the pandemic. In August 2019, there were 616,050 passengers going in and out of the airport.

This year In August, 193,711 people traveled. That’s a nearly 69% drop.

Kass expects this could just be the start of layoffs and not just at Milwaukee’s airport.

“You should look around the airport because as you have layoffs at the airport its going to hurt the restaurants. It’s going to hurt hotels. As traffic has dropped all the people around the airport have been dramatically impacted too,” said Kass.

The airlines have said if a new stimulus passes, they are willing to immediately hire back all the people laid off.

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