COVID-19

Major airline CEOs to arrive at White House Friday for meeting on COVID-19 issues

Sabri Ben-Achour, Scott Tong, and Alex Schroeder Jun 26, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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The numbers show that only about half a million Americans are flying every day. That’s one-fifth the normal amount for the early summer. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
COVID-19

Major airline CEOs to arrive at White House Friday for meeting on COVID-19 issues

Sabri Ben-Achour, Scott Tong, and Alex Schroeder Jun 26, 2020
The numbers show that only about half a million Americans are flying every day. That’s one-fifth the normal amount for the early summer. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Airlines executives are going to the White House on Friday. On the agenda, reportedly: coronavirus issues including checking passengers’ temperatures and contact tracing concerns.

It comes at a time when airline workers are pleading for more government help.

Marketplace’s Scott Tong is following this. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.

Sabri Ben-Achour: What have the airlines been doing to coax back flyers and keep them safe?

Scott Tong: The big airlines say they’re screening passenger temperatures now, and reports suggest they’ll ask the government to mandate that. They require masks from check-in all the way to arrival. But the numbers show that only about half a million Americans are flying every day. That’s one-fifth the normal amount for the early summer. So, by the numbers this is one of the worst downturns ever for this industry.

Ben-Achour: The airlines have already received some $25 billion in relief money. Are they asking for more?

Tong: The airlines aren’t. As you mentioned, they got $25 billion in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, and in return promised not to lay people off, through September. Who knows if things will recover then?

The unions representing air industry workers are asking for another $25 billion to guarantee jobs after the money ends on Sept. 30. And pilots for American Airlines want the government to purchase all the middle seats, to space people out. We should say, the airlines are offering voluntary buyouts to their workers.

I just spoke to James Carlson, a spokesman at the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. He says their members already are taking voluntary leaves and work reductions:

“The airline workers have stepped up and helped out their companies. And we just want to see this through and do the things that are smart. Because if we just take a hands-off approach to this, we will have a much worse situation on our hands on Oct. 1.”

Ben-Achour: Is bailing out airlines considered a good use of the public’s money?

Tong: Every industry calls itself critical. Last month a group of brand-name economists pushed a working paper on COVID-19 recovery packages. They found, long-term, the best bang for your buck is investing in health care, infrastructure and research. Airlines were one of the worst performers.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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