“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to share some final words with you all before we all part ways today,” Kirsten Hamik said over the intercom. “As we all know, COVID-19 has turned the world upside-down this year. I’m sure every one of you [has] been affected in some way. And unfortunately, the airline industry has been impacted greatly. Due to these circumstances, American Airlines has been forced to furlough 8,099 flight attendants. The entire crew working this flight is part of that number and this is our final flight.”
Earlier this month, American Airlines sent furlough notices to 19,000 employees, saying the company can no longer afford to have them on payroll due to the expiration of the federal CARES Act Payroll Support Program at the beginning of October.
Rather than complain about her circumstances or grumble against the company that had just let her go, Hamik and the rest of the crew chose to lead with gratitude.
“We would like to thank each and every one of you all,” Hamik said emotionally. “Thank you for the smiles, the kindness, and, of course, your business. Every single day I witness these tiny little human miracles. Strangers helping one another, sharing photos and stories of loved ones they are on their way to visit, comforting each other when turbulence gets rough, playing peek-a-boo with a baby sat in the row ahead. There’s many things that make this job great but the main reason is because of all of you. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
The video was shared on TikTok by Hamik herself, where it has quickly gone viral with more than 10 million views.
Hamik received thunderous applause from passengers after her address, but unfortunately, all the applause in the world doesn’t change the reality that thousands of flight attendants, pilots and other airline employees are or are about to be out of work. And American Airlines is certainly not alone in this, as United Airlines similarly furloughed 13,000 employees this month.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said in a letter to the furloughed employees that he was hopeful they could be brought back if another relief package is passed, as the volume of passengers compared to a year ago was down almost 70 percent as of September.
"I spoke late today with the Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin," Parker wrote. "He informed me that the White House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are continuing to negotiate on a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that would include an extension of the PSP and it is possible they could reach an agreement in the coming days."
Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, seconded Parker’s message, saying that without government relief, those furloughed “don't know how they will pay rent, feed their families, or cover the cost of their prescriptions or medical care.”
But while Canada is preparing for an airline bailout package to pass, the United States does not appear to be any closer to reaching a deal that will end these furloughs, especially with the election just a week away. Instead, the sad reality is that more furloughs could be on the way in the coming months, as COVID-19 cases are currently rising across the country and there’s no end in sight for the pandemic. And if that’s the case, Hamik may not be the last flight attendant to share an emotional goodbye with her passengers.
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