An airline employee walks past empty American Airlines check-in terminals at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020.

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

American Airlines on Thursday told staff it has more than 20,000 employees it doesn’t need for its reduced fall schedule as the carrier and its competitors face weak demand for air travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Fort Worth-based carrier and other U.S. airlines are urging employees to take buyouts or early retirement options to reduce headcount before turning to involuntary measures like layoffs.

U.S. carriers are prohibited from laying off or cutting the pay rates of their staff through Sept. 30 under the terms of $25 billion in government payroll support aimed at softening the impact of the virus on their business.

“We currently anticipate having 20 to 30% — or more than 20,000 — more team members on payroll than we need to operate our schedule this fall,” CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said in a staff note, which was seen by CNBC. “To be clear, this doesn’t mean 20,000 of our team members will be furloughed in October, it simply means we still have to work to do to right-size our team for the airline we operate.”

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