Airline industry warns it won’t fully rebound until 2024

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The airline industry warned it won’t fully rebound to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, Airlines for America (A4A) announced Thursday.

A4A, which represents the major U.S. airlines, predicted that demand for air travel won’t return to where it was in February and early March for a few years.

“We don’t see any significant increase in demand. We don’t see it fully rebounding until 2024,” A4A CEO Nicholas Calio said on a call with reporters. “We are doing everything we can to keep our companies afloat. People talk about the situation being dire. It is dire. Right now, we’re fighting for survival. No bones about it.”

He noted that the industry is smaller than it once was, meaning carriers are flying fewer flights and it’s more difficult for customers to get to where they want to go. 

Passenger volumes are down 70 percent compared to year-ago levels and 29 percent of U.S. passenger airline fleets remain idle. Bookings are down 73 percent and booked revenue is down 86 percent, marked by the lack of business travel that produces high-quality traffic for carriers.

Calio called for more aid from the government to help airlines survive the pandemic amid looming furloughs and stalled negotiations in Congress over the next coronavirus relief package. 

“Our hope is that there will be more aid coming from the government in terms of frankly, a new CARES Act,” he said, not giving a dollar amount but adding that the aid could come in part grants and part loans. 

The CARES Act, which Congress passed in March, provided $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines and $25 billion in direct grants to passenger airlines.

“It was no bailout. It was a simply pass through, a jobs bill,” Calio said.

Airlines are prohibited from firing or laying off any employees until Oct. 1 under the terms of the relief funding. United Airlines announced Wednesday that it plans to cut 16,370 employees in October and American Airlines announced last month that 19,000 employees will be cut.

Calio noted that Trump has said recently that airlines should be helped further.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday in Wisconsin, “We’ll be helping the airlines. You have to help the airlines. Airlines are a tough business in good times.”

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also said last week that Trump is considering executive action to avoid airline industry layoffs if Congress doesn’t act.

Tags A4A Airlines for America Coronavirus COVID-19 Mark Meadows

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