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Pandemic losses lead to 71 restaurant worker layoffs at local airport. Are more expected?

The Island Packet logoThe Island Packet 8/26/2020 By Kate Hidalgo Bellows, The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

Seventy-one restaurant workers at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport will be out of a job soon as their employer, food services company HMSHost, cut thousands of jobs around the country due to stagnant revenue during the pandemic.

According to records on the Georgia Department of Labor’s website, the employees’ last day of work is Oct. 16. Employers are required by the Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act to give 60 days’ notice to employees before a mass layoff or business closure.

According to airport spokesperson Lori Lynah, restaurants in the airport have been operating on a flexible rolling schedule, opening based on the scheduled air traffic for the day. Not all restaurants are open because, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, flight travel has been down. Although the numbers of people getting on a plane have steadily increased over the past few months, according to statistics on SAV’s website, they have not come close to January and February passengers.

This has meant that not all employees are working as many hours as previously — or at all. According to a company spokesperson for HMSHost, many employees were furloughed at the start of the crisis.

“We had anticipated being able to return our associates to work as business returned,” the spokesperson said. “However, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases nationally has stalled passenger traffic, and there is no short-term end in sight to the economic crisis.”

It’s unclear which businesses were affected by the layoffs and whether there will be more cuts. The spokesperson did not answer questions relating to the particular restaurants or the potential for more cuts.

Beaufort County airports director John Rembold said he is happy that Hilton Head Island airport has seen no cuts among staff. HMSHost is not a contractor at the airport, he said.

Rembold added that he is not privy to information about cuts by airlines, which are separate companies from the airports.


©2020 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.)

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