More Airlines Scale Back Staff, Schedules

Delta Air Lines, the nation's No. 3 carrier, today joined the list of major airlines planning to scale back staff, reduce schedules and ground some of their fleets in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks that emptied the nation's skies for two days.

Delta said it would cut 13,000 positions and reduce its flight schedule by 15 percent as a result of the drastic drop in demand for air travel after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. The company's news raised planned layoffs to 93,590 workers over the past two weeks.

Leo Mullen, chief executive officer of the Atlanta, Ga.-based airline, said the company was already struggling with tough times, but it was the assaults that were the straws that broke the proverbial camel's back. "This is an extraordinarily difficult decision … that we certainly would not have been facing — to any degree — on Sept. 10," he explained.

With the cuts, Delta joins other major U.S. air carriers with the exception of Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines, in cutting jobs and scaling back schedules in the aftermath of the attacks by hijacked airliners that destroyed the World Trade Center complex in New York and damaged the Pentagon, leaving thousands dead or missing.

Delta had unveiled last week that it would be announcing job cuts as part of an overall effort to reduce the size of its operations by 15 percent to 20 percent. Today's move follows similar layoffs in recent days from American, Northwest, Delta, Continental, United, US Airways and regional airlines.

Layoffs are coming fast and furious at non-U.S. airlines as well. Air Canada announced today it plans to cut an additional 5,000 jobs to the 4,000 it eliminated in August. The airline is also grounding 84 planes and cutting its flights by 20 percent. Airplane makers are also feeling the crunch. The recent rash of groundings has forced Canadian plane manufacturer Bombardier to slice 3,800 jobs.

Overseas, British Airways has had to cut 7,000 jobs while its rival Virgin Atlantic will let go of 1,200 employees. Alitalia is cutting 2,500, while Belgian carrier Sabena is set to hand out 500 pink slips and reduce its staff by an additional 1,500 positions through early retirement. SwissAir said it is slashing 3,000 jobs, while Scandinavian Airlines is losing 1,100.

Force Majeure

Despite a $15 billion bailout from Congress approved last week, thousands of airline workers laid off since the terrorist attacks still won't be receiving any kind of severance.

Northwest and American, two of the nation's largest airlines, confirmed Tuesday that they are firing employees without severance pay, invoking a so-called force majeure clause in their union contracts that protects companies from such unforeseeable circumstance.

Delta did not immediately disclose whether or not it will provide severance and other benefits to its affected workers. Delta has approximately 82,000 employees worldwide.

"Some of the normal provisions of the contracts would cause huge short-term costs to the airline," Northwest Airlines spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch says, adding that Northwest is invoking force majeure because of the "extremely difficult times we are in now."

Ebenhoch says layoffs began last Friday and will continue through the next few weeks. Of the 10,000 employees to be laid off, 9,000 are union employees and 1,000 are management. After the layoffs, Northwest will employee 43,000 people.

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