More than 400 people are set to be permanently laid off from restaurants at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as early as Oct. 15 due to the decline in traffic at the airport and the COVID-19 pandemic.
HMSHost informed the state of Minnesota via a WARN letter, as required by law, that 404 employees who have been furloughed will be permanently laid off come mid-October if they are not recalled by then.
The employees affected include managers, chefs, fast food attendants, baristas, servers, bartenders, and hosts, among other positions. Some of the employees are represented by UNITE HIRE Local 17.
According to the WARN letter, HMSHost in March began furloughing workers due to the "sudden and drastic decline" in business due to the pandemic, noting COVID-19 "devastated the travel and restaurant industries"
"Never in the history of aviation and the hospitality industry, have we experienced such catastrophic customer traffic declines," the WARN letter states.
In a statement to BMTN, an HMSHost company spokesperson said:
HMSHost brings innovative dining to airports and motorways all over the U.S. With stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the travel restaurant industry in which HMSHost operates.
When travel initially collapsed, HMSHost furloughed many corporate and front-line associates. For several months, we continued providing our associates with benefits, and allowed them to use all available paid time off, including vacation, as well as sick and flex time which would not otherwise have been available if they had been laid-off. We had anticipated being able to return our associates to work as business returned. 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.
Due to the slow recovery and challenging business climate, HMSHost has made the difficult decision to lay off a significant portion of our associates across the country. We are deeply grateful to all of our associates for their commitment and care for our guests and one another to make HMSHost a best-in-class company.
HMSHost, based in Maryland, is not the first airport restaurant employer to layoff workers at MSP Airport. In July, Aero Service Group (ASG), based in St. Louis Park, informed the state that it would have to layoff up to 92 people due to the pandemic and a decline in air traffic.