American Airlines will not operate flights to 15 smaller US cities in October. This decision came when a federal requirement to serve those communities ends.
Because of low demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a massive slump in air travel. Airlines and their labor unions are seeking billions in taxpayer relief.
American said its schedule covering October 7 through November 3 will drop flights to cities including Sioux City, Iowa; New Haven, Connecticut; and Springfield, Illinois.
“This is the first step as American continues to evaluate its network and plans for additional schedule changes in the coming weeks,” the airline said in a prepared statement.
Government Aid for the Airline Industry
The government gave a massive relief to the airline industry in March. And up to $50 billion in cash and low-interest loans for the nation’s passenger airlines. American was the largest recipient — $10.7 billion if a pending loan wins final approval from the U.S. Treasury Department.
In return for taxpayer dollars, the government restricted airlines from furloughing workers. And in most cases, to continue serving destinations they had before the pandemic. However, both these conditions expire on September 30.
Whereas, airlines and their labor unions are lobbying for an additional $25 billion to keep paying workers. And avoid furloughs through next March. Cargo airlines and contractors would get $7 billion.
The push by airlines and labor has received significant support in Washington. A majority of the Democratic-controlled House endorsed the additional money, so did 16 Senate Republicans. President Donald Trump spoke favorably about helping the airlines when asked about the proposal.
However, the provision is under discussions over a larger virus-relief package. That would include extended unemployment benefits and, Democrats hope, aid to cities and state governments. The fate of that measure is unclear after negotiations between congressional Democrats and the White House broke down more than a week ago.
An American Airlines executive cited the stalemate in Washington for the airline’s decision to cut service to some destinations before they were announced Thursday.
“We have been holding off, hoping that we would come to some sort of agreement that would extend (the payroll money) and would extend the service requirement. That broader negotiation does seem to be stalled, and this is an unfortunate casualty of that,” said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity to explain private discussions about the decision.