COVID-19 devastates travel industry, leaving many airline workers furloughed

Many restless airline workers protested at LAX after being furloughed due to the pandemic.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The outlook for the tourism and travel industry looks grim as air travel has fallen off sharply and thousands of employees have been furloughed.

Airline workers protested at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday. They say they are out of work and running out of money.

Marina Gómez, a flight attendant, was furloughed in October and is about to lose her health insurance.

"There is no income, our benefits are about to go away, and Cobra is so expensive. There's no way we can afford it, we're not working," says Gómez.

The largest airlines, American and United, furloughed more than 32,000 workers after the federal payroll assistance program expired.

"States are running out of money for unemployment, millions of Americans are on the unemployment lines right now," says Dante Harris, president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

"Some economists think that the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry will be up to nine times greater than what we saw after 9/11," says Doug Shupe from the Auto Club of Southern California.

According to the the U.S. Travel Association, total travel spending in the U.S. is projected to finish down 45% from 2019.

Nearly 3.5 million of all direct travel jobs have vanished over the past seven months.

In California, the number of airline jobs has decreased about 15% from 54,000 in October 2019, to less than 46,000 in October 2020.

The larger industry of leisure and hospitality has taken an even bigger hit, with the number of jobs dropping 25% from over 2 million in 2019 to about 1.5 million in 2020.

AAA says people are looking ahead and booking travel for 2021.

"This is a very different year. The vast majority of folks are going to be turning to their automobiles for this holiday season, but we do anticipate that starting next April, pent-up demand to travel and explore other parts of the country will really increase again," Shupe says.

There is a new proposal in Congress that would give airlines $17 billion for four months of payroll assistance, but it doesn't have the support of congressional leaders. The process could take weeks.
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