HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some 2,000 union employees at Hawaiian Airlines have received layoff notices, but the CEO and flight attendants union say it’s not an automatic cut.
Even so, employees are facing the reality that Hawaiian Airlines will become a smaller company to survive this pandemic.
"The fate of the economy in Hawaii is really closely aligned to the fate of Hawaiian Airlines," said Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram.
He told Hawaii News Now the 2,000 layoff notices include 35% of the company’s flight attendants and 25% of its pilots.
"It doesn't mean we are laying off 2,000 people. We have discussions underway to design voluntary separations, early retirement for people who may be ready for transition," said Ingram.
"As disappointing as it is to have to put out notices like this, the reason we are doing it is because it's what we need to do to preserve the company for the long term," he added.
Joni Kashiwai, the president of the flight attendants union at Hawaiian Airlines, has seen the ups and downs during her nearly 35 years at the company.
"It definitely pulled the rug out from under us for sure and the situation with the virus is kind of out of our control," she said.
Employees with less seniority would get cut first and Kashiwai says employees are trying to help each other cope.
"Especially under these circumstances at the end of the day, we definitely want Hawaiian to survive. We want to make it through this," she said.
After surviving two bankruptcies and expanding to a global company, Ingram says this is perhaps the company’s greatest challenge.
Revenue has plunged over 90% year to year as the airline suffered hundreds of million of dollars in losses over three months.
Ingram says despite the financial “destruction” from the pandemic Hawaiian Airlines is nowhere near bankruptcy again.
"We have been doing what we can to manage our costs through this period of almost zero activity. We had a good balance sheet coming into this," he said.
The company says there could be cuts to non-union employees. So far, 8% have taken up voluntary separation offers.
The pilots union for Hawaiian says the company intends to involuntarily furlough up to 226 of roughly 850 pilots.
It says they ratified new agreements to create early retirement and voluntary leaves to reduce the number of cuts.