Two of the world’s largest airlines are experiencing unprecedented changes as a result of the novel coronavirus’ drastic effect on the air travel industry
As COVID-19 continues to keep America at a halt, more changes are happening to commercial air travel as airlines struggle to keep their planes flying.
On Monday, thousands of flight attendants and pilots at American Airlines accepted offers for voluntary leave and early retirement, according to a USA Today report.
The unions that represent flight crews for the Fort Worth, Texas based airline said that the carrier offered short-term leave packages ranging from one month to a year.
American’s flight crews will be able to keep their benefits and most will be able to keep at least some of their pay.
The carrier also offered early retirement options for pilots and flight attendants with full benefits and partial pay.
More than 700 American pilots accepted the early retirement offer, according to the Allied Pilots Association. The pilots will receive 50 hours of per month and full benefits beginning at age 62 until 65.
A typical month of pay for pilots is 85 to 90 hours, according to USA Today.
Nearly 5,000 pilots at the carrier chose offers for voluntary leave that can be long as six months. All will receive full benefits and most will be granted 55 hours of pay per month.
Most must maintain their landing and simulator training to keep their flying status, USA Today reported.
“These men and women have been with our airline through thick and thin and have led us through so many important moments in our airline’s and our industry’s history,” the union said in a message to pilots. “The suddenness of their departure is a bit unsettling as this wasn’t what any of us had planned.
American, the world’s largest airline in terms of fleet size has endured through tough days before. As high fuel prices caused a downturn in the industry in 2011, the airline filed for bankruptcy protection. Two years later, the airline merged with Tempe, Arizona based US Airways. They kept their iconic name, but were ultimately saved.
According to USA Today, American has a total of more than 15,000 pilots represented by the union.
Meanwhile, Atlanta based and legacy carrier Delta Air Lines is implementing new procedures for its boarding process as a result of the coronavirus. The airline hopes the new procedures will better prevent the spread of diseases when passengers fly.
On a typical flight, the airline boards passengers onto the plane with first class first, and then the business and economy classes from the front of the plane to the back. But according to another USA Today report, that does not happen anymore.
On Friday, the carrier began boarding passengers in its economy class from the back of the plane to the front. Passengers were asked to stay seated in the waiting area until their row was announced.
The airline said that boarding back to the front will decrease the chance of passengers passing each other as they find their seats.
Delta One, first class passengers and Diamond Medallion members will be able to board as usual, according to the report.
The new boarding procedures come just days after the carrier introduced a spaced boarding process allowing less passengers to board at a time as COVID-19 raised concerns of increased exposure during boarding.
The new boarding procedure will last until at least May 31.
New safety measures have also been implemented by the airline. Crews are provided with masks and customers are asked to bring their own. Additionally, USA Today reported that cleaning procedures have been enhanced, including spray fogging all aircraft.
Although Delta has also drastically reduced its number of daily flights as a result of coronavirus
fears, there is no word on whether flight crews have been offered voluntary leaves or early retirement like those at competitor American.