Southwest is one of three carriers operating out of Long Island...

Southwest is one of three carriers operating out of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. Credit: Barry Sloan

The federal COVID-19 relief bill has made the friendly skies a little friendlier for local airport workers.

The stimulus package enables Southwest and American airlines to scrap plans to furlough or lay off thousands of employees, including hundreds at MacArthur, LaGuardia, and Kennedy airports, company officials told their employees.

Among the provisions of the $900 billion aid bill approved by Congress last week and signed Sunday by President Donald Trump is an extension of the Payroll Support Program, created earlier this year to help stem job losses in the aviation industry. Airlines and unions had said failure to extend the program would lead to furloughs and layoffs throughout the struggling industry.

Southwest Airlines chief executive Gary Kelly said in a letter to employees that the company had canceled plans to furlough hundreds of employees nationwide, including 31 at LaGuardia Airport.

"As I’ve been saying for months, this was always our preferred plan, and it means we can stop the movement toward furloughs and pay cuts that we previously announced," Kelly wrote. "For that, I am most grateful."

Southwest officials had said its employees at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma might have been indirectly affected by the LaGuardia furloughs because LaGuardia employees with more seniority could have taken jobs from MacArthur employees with less seniority.

American Airlines, which also flies out of MacArthur, announced last week that it would expedite pay and benefits retroactive to Dec. 1 for 19,000 furloughed workers, including about 1,700 who work in New York State. Those workers also will get their jobs back, the company said in letters to employees.

American chief executive Doug Parker and president Robert Isom said in a letter to employees that reinstating workers "is a complex process" that would be done in phases.

MacArthur’s third major carrier, Frontier Airlines, reached agreements with its unions in the fall to avoid up to 1,500 furloughs nationwide, spokesman Zach Kramer wrote in an email.

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