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
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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
Heard on:
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:
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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

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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