Northwest, Delta Plan Layoffs as Crisis Mounts

More airline job cuts are coming in the wake of last week's terror attacks, with fourth-largest carrier Northwest saying today it will eliminate about 10,000 jobs and reduce flights by 20 percent.

That follows similar news late Thursday from Delta Airlines, which said it faces a "life or death situation," and would also have cut cut thousands this week. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines is also reportedly mulling job cuts, according to a published report.

The Northwest cuts amount to about 9 percent of its total staffing. "The current operating environment dictates that we reduce our flying schedule significantly, which in turn requires a significant reduction in our staffing levels and payroll," Northwest Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson said. "These reductions are necessary to maintain Northwest Airlines as a successful company."

At Delta, President Fredrick W. Reid sent a recorded voice message to employees saying, "We have absolutely no alternative to the heartbreaking requirement of reducing employee costs and head count to stabilize our company and permit it to have a reasonable future," reported The Associated Press.

It is not clear yet how many jobs Delta, the country's third-biggest carrier, intends to cut.

American, United Laying Off Thousands

The airline crisis has also spread to Europe. British Airways became the most prominent foreign-based carrier to act in the wake of the attacks, announcing it will cut staff by 7,000 and reduce scheduled flights by 10 percent.

"We face exceptional conditions which have forced us to take very tough decisions," British Airways chief executive Rod Eddington said in a statement.

On Wednesday, American Airlines and United Airlines, the two largest carriers in the United States, announced they will each lay off 20,000 employees — a direct response to last week's terror attacks, in which four planes were hijacked and crashed in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Two of the hijacked planes were United flights; the other two were American.

That brings the industrywide number of announced layoffs to about 80,000 since Sept. 12, the day after the attacks. Continental Airlines and US Airways are among the carriers that have also have announced layoffs. In addition to the major airlines, smaller carriers have also announced cutbacks, with America West, American Trans Air, Frontier Airlines and Midwest Express laying off employees. And regional carrier Midway Airlines folded last week.

Meanwhile, Congress is close to passage on a bailout package for the airlines, with a House vote expected as early as today.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, following a Tuesday meeting with airline CEOs, said the industry may be losing as much as $300 million a day.

Delta Air Lines head Leo Mullin has said financial aid is necessary to ensure the industry does not become the first major economic casualty of the terror attacks. Revenue was lost entirely in three of the four days last week following the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, explained Mullins, and in coming days revenue would be no more than 40 percent to 50 percent of normal.

"The tragedy of last week certainly affected America in every way," he added. "And it is, from the standpoint of the airline industry, perhaps the biggest challenge in our history."

Setbacks Follow World Trade Disaster

The terror attacks and their aftermath have resulted in a colossal, unprecedented setback for the entire airline industry.

Commercial flights have resumed since four airliners were simultaneously hijacked and crashed on Sept. 11, with two of the planes destroying the World Trade Center in New York and one hitting national defense headquarters at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. The fourth crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

In addition to the major airlines, smaller carriers have also announced cutbacks, with America West, American Trans Air, Frontier Airlines and Midwest Express layying off employees. And regional carrier Midway Airlines folded last week.

Reduced demand, more expensive security measures and possible liability lawsuits related to Tuesday's hijackings could all serve to greatly increase the airlines' financial woes.

At least 40 percent of the airlines' normal operating costs continued even with all their planes grounded, including wages for crews and workers, and just about every normal expense other than fuel and landing fees.

Then there are the potentially expensive settlements that United and American may have to pay to families of the victims aboard the hijacked planes.

ABCNEWS' Linda Douglass contributed to this report.