American Airlines (AAL) plans to lay off 17,500 employees in addition to 1,500 who were furloughed earlier as air travel fails to recover amid the coronavirus pandemic, USA Today reported.

News of the layoffs was announced to employees in a memo obtained by USA Today. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said was the most difficult update they have had to make since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“Today is the hardest message we have had to share so far – the announcement of involuntary staffing reductions effective Oct. 1,” Parker and Isom said in the memo.

American warned last month it would have to lay off as many as 25,000 workers as air travel stalled during the pandemic. Now Parker and Isom said cuts would need to be made unless the payroll protection program created by the CARES Act was extended.

Some 8,100 flight attendants, who will be furloughed, and 1,600 pilots are among those being cut. About 1,500 administrative and management layoffs were made earlier, USA Today reported. This is on top of the thousands of workers who already have taken voluntary permanent or temporary leave from the airline.

"The coming weeks and months will be some of the most difficult we have ever faced," Parker and Isom said in the memo. "No matter how challenging they seem, remember this: The American Airlines team is no stranger to adversity, and in adversity, we always come through. We will come out on the other side of this crisis. Demand will return. Team members will be recalled. The world will find its new normal, and when it does, American is going to be there.

“Until then, take heart that we will get through this together. The professionalism and care this team has shown over the past six months has been nothing short of extraordinary. We are all American Airlines, and we will survive, and one day, thrive again. Thank you for all you are doing now, and tomorrow, to carry us through,” they added.

American said as of Oct. 1, it will have less than 100,000 employees, down from 140,000 workers at the start of the pandemic.

The U.S. has reported more than 5.7 million positive cases of the coronavirus and more than 176,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Globally there are over 23.4 million positive cases of the virus and over 809,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Shares of American were trading at $12.95 as of 12:23 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, down 49 cents or 3.65%

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