[CBS News] reports that United Airlines will reduce flights, freeze hiring and ask employees to volunteer for unpaid leave as the airline struggles with weak demand for travel because of the coronavirus outbreak.  United said Wednesday that, starting in April, it will reduce passenger-carrying capacity 20% on international routes and 10% in the U.S., the first airline to cut domestic flying. United officials said they will temporarily ground an unspecified number of planes.  United had already suspended flights to China. The cuts were announced after a meeting between airline CEOs and the President and Vice President of the United States.

Negative impacts to travel industry.

Economic impacts are bound to spread as the travel industry keeps taking hits from people all over the world who are hesitant to travel beyond their homes over concerns of catching the Coronavirus.  The White House Administration is asking for help to trace and contain individuals who may have had contact with COVID-19.  The airlines have already been instrumental in the successful screening of over 53,000 travelers blocking a number from coming into the United States.  Intensified screenings and cleaning procedures at the airports and airlines continue to protect passengers and employees from contracting the virus.

One component of the reduction in flights is directly tied to the decrease in demand, by example Lufthansa parked 150 planes for this reason.  Bookings to China and other countries have been limited by corporations for employee travel and large business conferences have been cancelled.  United also said they will continue service in U.S. cities but will eliminate some routes as part of the 10% cut in April domestic service.   There is a hiring freeze through June 30 except for critical positions according to CEO Munoz and President Kirby.  United States-based workers may apply for voluntary, unpaid leaves or reduced scheduling with no planned layoffs at this point in time.

 Other airlines to follow suit.

Southwest Airlines has not reduced flying and doesn’t have immediate plans to do so, said spokesman Brad Hawkins. American Airlines declined to comment on its plans. Delta Air Lines did not immediately respond for comment.

JetBlue has suspended change and cancellation fees as people are fearful of flying, the waiver covers flights booked from February 27 through March 11 with end dates for travel by June 1. They are the first airline to waive fees due to coronavirus but American Airlines  has followed suit with its own date specifications, as they address the severity of the coronavirus threat to the world. Travelers should contact airlines directly to find out the restrictions regarding waivers for cancelled travel related to COVID-19.

Government emergency funding.

After the release of emergency funding by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, travel industry business and government leaders must assess the direct and potential impacts to  economic infrastructures across the globe and seek assistance to remain stable.  Within the United States, Washington, California and Florida have declared a state of emergency.  Often this is done to formalize access to emergency funding at the federal level.  While many government heads are assessing the impacts moving forward, the likelihood of increased states of emergency is possible.  People need to be diligent regarding hand washing, keeping hands away from their faces and self-quarantining if they feel sick as a cautionary measure.




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