Although more passengers are flocking to San Francisco International Airport, the plunge in nationwide air travel will cost 100 aircraft mechanics their jobs there.
American Airlines announced last week it will lay off 100 employees at its SFO maintenance facility and 18 workers at its Mineta San Jose International Airport station by next September.
The SFO station also will be downgraded to a Class II facility, meaning the remaining mechanics will do less intensive work on the aircraft there, such as engine washes and overnight maintenance, American spokesman Tim Wagner said. The airline will completely cease live maintenance operations at San Jose, where the company has cut its flying schedule, he said.
SFO has launched a $383 million project to reopen Terminal 2, and its 12-month passenger count, through July, increased by about 2.5 percent from the prior year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. About 12 percent of SFO passengers fly American, the airport's second-most popular carrier, behind United Airlines.
By contrast, U.S. air travel overall has dipped 8 percent from a year ago, according to the DOT. American said its national slump caused the layoffs and it also will shrink or shutter airport maintenance facilities in Kansas City, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Louis. Overall, 700 American mechanics will lose jobs.
Carmine Romano, American's senior vice president of maintenance and engineering, said the company has reduced its jet count from about 900 to 600 in recent years and no longer needs as many mechanics.
As a result, local mechanics such as 54-year-old Phillip Pasco, who has worked at the SFO facility for 23 years, could be out of a job.
"I'm very shocked," Pasco said. "I'm too old to be looking for another job.
"I still do my job. My family flies on (American) airplanes."
Aaron Mattox, vice president of the Transport Workers Union, which represents the mechanics, said his group is working with American management to try to relocate some workers to facilities around the country. Wagner said the company will offer employees opportunities to leave early.
Mattox said many of the employees who will lose their jobs came back to American after being laid off in the early part of the decade, when airline travel plummeted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"Now they find out it was short-lived, and they're right back out on the street or (will) move somewhere else in the country," Mattox said.
One positive note for the workers may be the extensive notice they were given, said union President John Ruiz. He said typically workers are told of layoffs a month in advance.
Mike Rosenberg covers San Mateo, Burlingame, Belmont and transportation issues. Reach him at 650-348-4324.