Hundreds of Hawaii-based flight attendants to be laid-off this fall


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Though Hawaii’s visitor numbers continue to climb, it’s nothing compared to a year ago when tourism was booming pre-pandemic.

Now, hundreds of locally-based flight attendants from United and Delta Air Lines could be out of work by this fall.

Since March, COVID-19 has devastated the airline industry. Two of the largest airlines in North America–United and Delta– have lost billions. CARES Act funds have helped but that money runs out September 30.

The next step for both airlines will impact hundreds of Hawaii-based flight attendants.

In a statement, Adrian Gee, Delta Airlines Corporate Communications, said:

Delta is continuing to make adjustments to adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes the decision to adjust our flight attendant base footprint to best support our network flying.”

The airline is unsure how many positions will be affected by the downsizing at its base in Honolulu, but added that:

Flight attendants may begin transitioning to other Delta crew domiciles over the next several months.”

Gee said they expect the transition to be completed by the end of the year.

Delta Airlines flight attendant Neil Cabael, who is from the North Shore, said it’s not so simple.

“In order to keep your job, you’ll probably have to move to either California or Seattle and most of the Honolulu-based flight attendants are in the middle of their career with kids in school. So moving family will be really challenging at any time but especially now when there’s a global pandemic,” said Cabael.

Cabael said downsizing affects more than just the flight attendants and their families.

“It will roughly impact maybe about 300 people, and that represents 300 really good jobs in Hawaii. So it’s going to impact the community we live in and our economy.”

United Airlines is also planning to make cuts.

In a letter to the Workforce Development Council, Kate Gebo, United Airlines Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Labor Relations, said:

United anticipates reducing its workforce at all facilities at: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (332 affected employees); and Kahului Airport (54 affected employees).”

In the letter, United Airlines said they have taken an “aggressive and proactive approach in reducing costs in nearly every aspect of our business.”

The letter goes on to state that while cuts to executive, CEO and Presidents’ base salaries, suspending raises and other adjustments have helped, “It is unfortunately very likely that we will need to adjust the size of the company to reflect the lower demand levels and implement workforce reduction to reduce our labor expenses, beginning on October 1.”

United’s goal, as stated in the letter, is to set themselves up for “long-term success, which includes preserving as many jobs as we possibly can.”

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