Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America, the trade group representing virtually every domestic carrier, says the industry has done as much as it can to combat the coronavirus pandemic and needs additional government support.
Calio was speaking with noted travel expert Peter Greenberg on his podcast.
Air travel is off 75-80 percent from last year’s numbers, at one point dropping to 96 percent reduction year over year. The industry got a boost in March with the CARES Act stimulus package, but it is seeking an extension to the aid to avoid having to lay off thousands of workers on Oct. 1. The airlines agreed not to furlough workers or cut pay for six months, until Oct. 1, as part of receiving federal grants and loans.
But, even now, airlines are struggling as demand is low. United Airlines, for instance, is still burning $25 million a day, and that revenue will be down 85 percent when third-quarter earnings are announced next month.
“Airlines have done everything they can to rectify the situation,” Calio said while discussing the pandemic’s impact on the airline industry. “[They’ve] cut executive pay, moved people around, people took voluntary leave, but it’s not going to be enough.”
Calio said the pandemic has been more devastating than what the airlines went through following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“We are in a much worse situation than we were after 9/11, than we were after the financial crisis, so it’s going to take time to recover,” Calio said. “We are in uncharted territory. Hopefully (the pandemic is) a once in a lifetime occurrence and we don’t have to deal with it again. But right now, the government does have to step in.”
President Trump has said he is on board with bailing out the airlines again, and Calio said he believes there is bipartisan agreement to support the airline industry. But as of the moment, Congress is split on other items and hasn’t been able to come to terms with a new bailout.
Calio has tried to convince lawmakers that an extension of the CARES Act would benefit the airlines and the overall economy.
“For our industry, it’s critical that we keep our pilots, our flight attendants, our machinists and our gate agents on the payroll,” he said. “We believe that airlines can help empower the recovery, help empower the path back to employment, not only for airline employees but for all those people who work downline from the actual airline products themselves.”
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