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A4A President and CEO Joins Panel Discussion on the Service Impact of COVID-19

This week, Airlines for America President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio participated in the Flight Safety Foundation’s 2020 International Air Safety Summit for a panel discussion moderated by FSF Board of Governors member, Peggy Gilligan, to discuss Network and Small Community Air Service. He was joined by Faye Malarkey Black, President and CEO, Regional Airline Association (RAA).

Over the last seven months, the airline industry has experienced unprecedented circumstances due to the COVID-19 global health crisis. In the beginning of March, U.S airlines were in “the golden age of air travel,” flying 2.5 million passengers and 58,000 ton of cargo a day and were equipped with “fortress balance sheets designed to withstand an event three times worse than 9/11.” Yet, with the onset of the pandemic, “it all disappeared in basically two weeks.”

Since the early months of the crisis, passenger levels have plateaued and currently remain at 60 percent of the levels compared to 2019. Additionally, a third of the aircraft fleet is still parked.

The sharp decline in passenger volume has also affected airports, employees and related service industries. “There’s a lot of impacts down the line,” Calio said. “For every single airline job inside the airlines, there’s about fourteen carry-on jobs, so there’s this trickledown effect – it’s a tsunami effect that affects all sorts of communities and the economy.”

U.S. airlines undertook aggressive cost-cutting measures, and the CARES Act provided a critical lifelike to keep airline employees on the payroll through the end of September. But despite these actions, tens of thousands of airline employees – flight attendants, pilots, mechanics, gate agents and others – were involuntarily furloughed when Congress failed to extend the Payroll Support Program by September 30.

Now, without additional federal aid, U.S. airlines have been forced to make difficult business decisions, including service reductions. “There’s far fewer flights, period…And this is not just small communities. That’s medium communities, it’s large communities, as well…There are reductions in service. There are going to be more to meet the number of people and meet demand,” Calio said during the panel.

The airline industry faces a long road to recovery. “We are still fighting for survival,” Calio emphasized during the discussion. Despite these challenges, the aviation ecosystem remains one of the key cogs of the economy and an essential service. “The fact of the matter is we have to be ready,” Calio said. “We not only power the economy in normal times, but we can power the recovery.”

Today, airlines remain committed to providing this critical service while allowing everyone to #FlyHealthyFlySmart.

The full discussion is available here.

For more information about how A4A carriers are working to protect the traveling public and our employees, visit www.FlyHealthyFlySmart.com.

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