American Airlines Group Inc (AAL) said it plans to cut 30% of its management and support staff (MSS) to reduce costs as the debt-strapped U.S. airline grapples with the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Affected employees will be notified of the layoffs in July, but will remain on payroll through Sept. 3, and will receive full pay and benefits through the U.S. CARES Act Payroll Support Program. The indebted airline is also offering a voluntary early out program for MSS employees but if there are not enough volunteers it will begin layoffs.
“We will be a smaller airline, with fewer routes and fewer flights,” Elise Eberwein, Executive VP, wrote in a memo to employees. “Our preferred outcome is to properly size our frontline team for the future without having to implement involuntary furloughs. This is a goal, though, not a commitment, and a stretch goal at that.”
Eberwein added that the airline has already taken a number of steps to downsize with nearly 39,000 workers choosing to take a voluntary leave or early retirement. In addition, fleet retirement accelerations are underway, which is expected to result in flying roughly 100 fewer aircraft next summer than was originally planned.
American Airlines stock has lost two-third of its value so far this year as stringent travel restrictions tied to the coronavirus pandemic have brought travel demand to an almost halt. U.S. airlines have been burning through billions of dollars in the first quarter incurring huge losses and implementing broad cost-cutting plans, as well as taking steps to shore up cash buffers.
The airline’s stock dropped 4.4% to $10.50 on Friday.
Earlier this month, five-star analyst Brandon Oglenski at Barclays lowered the stock’s rating to Sell from Hold, with a $7 price target, (reflecting 33% downside potential) saying the future is uncertain on travel demand but definite on “plenty of additional debt.”
Overall Wall Street analysts are sitting on the fence when it comes to American Airlines stock. The Hold consensus is divided into 4 Hold, 8 Sell and 4 Buy ratings. The $13.36 average price target is less bearish than Barclays’ outlook and implies 27% upside potential in the shares in the coming year. (See American Airlines stock analysis on TipRanks).
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