American Airlines began laying off more than 3,100 flight attendants on Tuesday after a judge turned aside a union official's bid to block the job losses.
More than half the workers who lost their jobs Tuesday had worked for Trans World Airlines before American parent AMR Corp bought TWA out of bankruptcy in 2001.
In St. Louis, TWA's longtime home, and other bases around the country, flight attendants finishing their last day of work turned in uniforms, identification badges and keys.
"Of course it's a difficult day, but we understand these furloughs are needed to keep American Airlines on the path back to profitability," company spokeswoman Julia Bishop Cross said.
In e-mails, workers facing unemployment said they fear losing their homes and wonder how to pay for health care. A few said they were facing bankruptcy. Others will manage, they said, but miss their work.
Maura Sanders of Arlington, Texas, became a flight attendant three years ago, at age 44, realizing a dream since high school.
"It was so long to get here, it hurts. It's hard to let a dream die," Sanders said. She hopes to find work at a commuter airline.
Chris Bailey was also nearing his third anniversary on the job. His last flight was Sunday, from Vancouver, British Columbia, back home to Dallas.
"The way home was kind of somber. I kind of feel let down by the company, but seniority matters," said Bailey, 23, who plans to collect unemployment while job-hunting.
Most of those laid off Tuesday will get final paychecks by July 15.
Separately, American said Tuesday it was nearing decisions on cutting more flights and closing some facilities. The airline has already parked 57 planes since last year and plans to idle 57 more within a year.
"We will not be able to fly every nonstop route we fly today, nor will we be able to provide the same level of service in markets that cannot profitably support our current flight schedule," said chief executive Gerard Arpey.
American is expected to close one or more of its maintenance facilities. The company is also reviewing call volume at its eight US reservations centers.
The 3,123 layoffs, which were to be completed early yesterday, were sealed in May when American and its employees agreed to US$1.8 billion in labor cost reductions to keep the company out of bankruptcy.