Boeing is cutting more than 12,000 jobs through lay-offs and buy-outs as the coronavirus pandemic seizes the travel industry, with more cuts to come.
One of the nation's biggest manufacturers will lay off 6,770 U.S. employees this week, and another 5,520 workers are taking buyout offers to leave voluntarily in the coming weeks.
"Following the reduction-in-force announcement we made last month, we have concluded our voluntary layoff (VLO) program. And now we have come to the unfortunate moment of having to start involuntary layoffs (ILO). We’re notifying the first 6,770 of our U.S. team members this week that they will be affected. We will provide all the support we can to those of you impacted by the ILOs — including severance pay, COBRA health care coverage for U.S. employees and career transition services," Boeing said in a statement published on its website.
"The COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the airline industry means a deep cut in the number of commercial jets and services our customers will need over the next few years, which in turn means fewer jobs on our lines and in our offices. We have done our very best to project the needs of our commercial airline customers over the next several years as they begin their path to recovery," the statement further added.
Air travel within the U.S. tumbled 96% by mid-April, to fewer than 100,000 people on some days. It has recovered slightly. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened 264,843 people at airports on Tuesday, a drop of 89% compared with the same Tuesday a year ago.
Boeing had said it would cut 10% of a work force that numbered about 160,000. A Boeing spokesperson said Wednesday's actions represent the largest number of job cuts, but several thousand additional jobs will be eliminated in the next few months.
The layoffs are expected to be concentrated in the Seattle area, home to Boeing's commercial-airplanes business. The defense and space division is stable and will help blunt the impact of the decline in air travel and demand for passenger jets, the company said.
Boeing also considering layoffs at international locations
Boeing said additional job cuts will be made in international locations, but it did not specify numbers.
CEO David Calhoun said Wednesday the company faces the challenges of keeping employees safe and working with suppliers and airlines "to assure the traveling public that it can fly safe from infection."
Calhoun warned that Boeing will have to adjust business plans constantly because the pandemic makes it hard to predict the impact on the company's business.
Boeing's crisis began with two crashes of its 737 Max, which led regulators around the world to ground the jetliner last year. The company's problems have deepened with the coronavirus, which has cut global air traffic by up to 90% and caused airlines to postpone or cancel orders and deliveries for new planes.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.