Coronavirus: Workers laid off as airport restaurants and shops close



Hundreds of workers are losing their jobs as many restaurants and shops close at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

HMSHost sent letters notifying a union official that 225 workers at the Atlanta airport would be laid off.

The job cuts come as HMSHost closes many of its restaurants on international Concourse F after airlines slashed most of their international flights.It is also closing some other locations in the airport.

Other restaurants and shops are also affected as travel plummets due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Other concessionaires including Global Concessions, Global Concessions II and Pot Likker Creations LLC have disclosed cuts affecting 100 people each, while Airport Retail Management disclosed cuts affecting 196 people, according to the Georgia Department of Labor business layoff and closure listing.

The cuts come just as the Atlanta City Council voted this week to approve rent relief for concessionaires in the hopes of preserving workers’ jobs.

Hartsfield-Jackson said it will focus on keeping some concessions open at the center point of each concourse. The aim is to keep at least one restaurant and shop open on each concourse.

There are more than 260 concessions locations at the world's busiest airport across seven concourses and two terminals.

UNITE HERE, the union that represents the workers, is asking the city council transportation committee chair to introduce a measure requiring concessionaires that get reduced rent to keep their employment levels at Feb. 1 levels.

On Concourse F, HMSHost is closing Ecco, Belgium Brew Cafe, El Taco, Lorena Garcia, Pei We, French Meadows, The Pecan and The Varsity, as well as Starbucks in the international terminal outside security, according to a letter to a union official last week. The company said it expects the closures to be temporary.

In another letter to a union official this week, HMSHost said it would also close restaurants in the domestic terminal, including the Atlanta Chophouse and Auntie Anne’s in the atrium, two La Madeleine kiosks, The Pecan Bistro and El Taco on Concourse C and Cafe Brioche.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewed both letters. As of late Friday morning, HMSHost had not responded to requests for comment.

Those losing jobs include cashiers, food prep workers, cooks, supervisors, hosts and hostesses, baristas and others.

Marcus Redmond worked at the Atlanta Chophouse and said traffic each day at the airport had been getting slower and slower -- before he was notified Wednesday that he was losing his job.

“We’re the ones that are constantly putting our lives on the line to come here,” said Redmond, who has been in remission from cancer for three years. “We work in the airport with people traveling back and forth. We’re touching the plates.”

He said he plans to go on unemployment, “but it’s going to be a struggle,” and he’s worried about the cost of health insurance. Unemployment benefits in Georgia often don’t fully cover lost wages and last for 14 weeks.

“A lot of people are going to go homeless,” he said. “A lot of people have kids with health issues they need to deal with.”