Airline Employee Furlough Advice & Guidance: what to do

October 1, 2020, will mark the day when the U.S. airline employee furlough executions seriously begin. Many people are going to need advice on what to do next. That is unless there is a CARES-Act extension for airlines before that time.

The current employee furlough protection of the CARES-Act ends on September 30. At that time airlines will no longer be obligated to retain staff as a condition of the U.S. government aid agreement.

Knowing that the last day on the job is approaching fast can be outright traumatic for many.

Countless daily news-reports have been issued on the subject of the impending airline employee furloughs. CBS/YouTube.

So what do you do next? How do you handle your career interruption and the devastation of your routine-filled, often satisfying professional life?

The goal of Captain Jetson is to offer empathy, guidance, advice, and support to aviation industry employees during this difficult time, as fellow colleagues of the industry.

Develop a plan of action – now

The number one thing to keep in mind at all times is to take care of yourself and your family!

The number two thing to keep in mind at all times is to actively set, execute, and revise the goals of things to accomplish as a newly unemployed person.

Think of losing your job as you being pinned into a corner. How do you get out of that predicament? You solve that awkward situation with a positive “can-do” attitude, using a well-executed action-plan with solutions that work. Believe in yourself, stay confident, and fix the mess!

Once furloughed, “the buck stops with you”. Only YOU can make the hard decisions that should provide for a successful outcome for yourself and your family.

Getting furloughed is not for the faint or the lazy. You need to get aggressive. Be relentless with coming up with the solutions to be able to successfully proceed into the next phase of your professional life.

Regardless of who or where we work (for someone else) we are literally “wage-slaves”, or “order-takers”. We have little or no control over our own destiny. Then one day, with a penstroke from some executive’s desk we can be on the street.

This penstroke is now happening at most airlines!

It came as a result of the COVID-pandemic that has devastated our airline industry, perhaps for years to come.

However, no airline executive enjoys notifying its hard-working employees of furloughs. It’s also a hardship for the company, yet a necessary move for the airline’s survival.

Airline Employee Furlough Guide

If you are about to get furloughed, then your status is most likely towards the bottom of the seniority-list at your airline. Typical for most airlines, last hired is first out when furloughs become necessary.

However, on the brighter side, if you are a younger furloughed employee then you have the future ahead of you, with so many new opportunities to excel.

Regardless, approach the thought of being furloughed as an opportunity to get into bigger and better things, if you have an open mind. Then, if and when a recall occurs you can always continue from where you were let go.

Before your furlough goes into effect

If you are part of an airline employee union make sure you remain actively connected with your Union Counsel and pay attention to everything they say.

The Union represents your interests. Make sure you know what your union contract says, with particular emphasis on the sections of furlough, pay, benefits, medical, dental, and vision contract language.

Check your professional network and rekindle networking if you haven’t done so since you probably haven’t been looking for a job in a long time.

The Five Stages Of Grief: Prepare for your furlough

Losing your job is stressful, most often followed by the five stages of grief. Be familiar with these stages, as it could help you understand your feelings better during the process.

The five grief-stages you can expect to go through are:

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance.

Therefore it is recommended you immediately start a daily exercise and meditation program, which could help minimize the effect of grief.

The impact of the five stages of reactions differs from person to person. Professional literature also recommends keeping an open discussion going with your family or friends, on how to progressively solve the new challenges on a day-to-day basis.

Practical Advice

Captain Jetson Flight Attendant Journalist Jetting Julia reflecting on the personal aspects affecting her flight attendant career as well as all airline employees during the COVID-crisis. YouTube.

Obviously, our first worry that comes to mind when faced with a furlough is how to keep money coming in for a living.

We should always have 3-8 months of expenses already sitting in savings for emergencies such as a furlough. Whether you have a lot of money saved or little or no money saved, your basic plan of action should be the same:

Create a revised budget based on the loss of airline-income and most likely some or all company benefits as a result of the furlough.

1. Airline Employee Furlough Advice on Expense-matters

  • If you have a way to save, start saving even more and cut way back on expenses. Immediately revise your personal monthly budget to cut back on expenses for anything that is not essential. Become as “lean” as absolutely possible in your expense budget. List every expense on an excel sheet, software, or even on a paper to create a clear picture of all the expenses you are dealing with.
  • Contact your creditors and request a payment deferral on every loan you may have, including mortgage, car, and credit card debt.
  • Save on take-out or eat-out food expenses and make your own meals at home.
  • Maximize the use of discounts and coupons when shopping.

2. Airline Employee Furlough Advice on Income-matters

First, figure ALL sources of income that you can generate once you lose your airline job income, such as:

  • State unemployment benefits and programs (check with your state). Some states provide medical insurance assistance, State unemployment programs, job search services, and job training for new jobs. Find out if you qualify for EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) payments, State family assistance programs, or other programs that your state may or may not have.
  • Are you married or live with a domestic partner? Is it possible for your spouse to increase his or her work hours?
  • Do you qualify for military benefits?
  • Are you 62 years of age or older? Consider retiring early. You may want to start drawing on social security payments too. Your benefits will be less if you start taking social security before your full retirement age, but if you need the money, then why not start now? Plus, if you own a home, you may want to research if a reverse mortgage is right for you.

Review all of your assets:

  • You may want to withdraw the interest earned in your accounts towards total “monthly income,” from assets such as savings or CDs. Current interest rate payments are low, but everything helps. In the worst case, you can also withdraw savings as a means to meet essential payments.
  • Do you have dividend stocks invested? Can you live off of the dividends? Or, can you sell some stocks to raise cash?
  • Do you have assets you can liquidate, perhaps an extra car you don’t really need?

Finding a job

First, update your resume and increase your professional social media presence in sources such as LinkedIn. Keep networking.

Make sure you include the attendance of available job fairs in your job hunting. And, don’t forget to search job placement websites.

For former military people, how about getting into a military reserve unit? For all professional pilots, there are often several government pilot job positions available regardless of recessions.

Remember, a flying or airline-specialty field job may not easily be available during the COVID-crisis. It normally takes an average of ONE YEAR minimum to land an airline job during normal times! Fudge in the complications the pandemic has caused and the certainty of finding an airline-job has diminished greatly.

If you find another airline or aviation job, be aware that some airlines or aviation companies could require you to give up your seniority or outright quit the job you got furloughed from before the new company will hire you.

Don’t limit your opportunities only to aviation

There is also more to life than aviation. Consider exploring career options outside of aviation. Learn a new trade, go back to school, pursue higher education, or do something else for a living.

Also, do you recall the expression used for us employees in this article? We are programmed to be “wage-slaves”.

How about turning the furlough into an opportunity to start your own business?


Whether a recall happens or not can carry unexpected variables.

Traditionally, furloughed airline employees such as unionized pilots and flight attendants get recalled after a furlough.

For pilots, the saying goes that “you cannot call yourself a real airline pilot unless you have been furloughed at least once and gone through at least one divorce”.

Furloughs are and always have been part of many people’s airline careers. It’s just the nature of the business we are in.

More on pilots: You need to have a “thick skin” to be an airline pilot, to handle challenges successfully. The end result of any furlough is not certain. The fact that you are on furlough is no guarantee you will ever return to the job, even with recall rights.

A recall can take many years or it can happen within a relatively short time. therefore, don’t sit idle, waiting to be recalled.

Some of the things that could affect your recall status include:

  • An extended recession within the airline industry and company shrinkage.
  • Company bankruptcy.
  • Union contract busting.
  • Airline mergers.
  • Airline liquidation (going out of business).

Case-study of a furloughed airline pilot

From Airline Pilot to Beach Bum to Med Student to Medical Doctor

Finally, here is the real-life story of a former airline pilot colleague, Bob, who got furloughed in the early 1980s.

We are sharing his story for inspiration:

Bob’s pilot-furlough lasted five years before he was finally recalled. Being young when he got furloughed he decided not to worry about what would happen next. However, he immediately took steps to move on with his life.

First, as a single person, he moved back in with his aging parents, into the basement of their house. Living in California, he decided to spend the first weeks on furlough as a beach bum, collecting his thoughts and goals on the beach.

While enjoying a carefree life on Manhattan Beach (close to the LAX Airport) he decided to pursue higher education. Being extremely college-smart to start with he applied for medical school, got accepted, obtained a scholarship, and became a Medical Doctor.

Did Bob return to the airline when he received his recall notice five years later?



This airline employee furlough advice was put together by a team from our highly experienced senior aviation professionals and veterans of the airline industry.

Some of us have “been there – done that”, in terms of experiencing getting furloughed at some point in our airline careers of the past.

We ar simply passing on our experiences to you.

Questions or comments? You can contact us here.

Featured Image: Captain Joe.

DISCLAIMER: Captain Les or any other member of the staff at Captain Jetson is not licensed or professionally qualified to provide financial advice or mental health or physical health advice. The information and ideas presented in this article should be considered a basic guideline for airline employees on how they may wish to handle a furlough situation. The decision as to what action to take or not to take as a furloughed employee is entirely up to each affected individual.

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