Empty Air: Airline Bailout Only a Band-Aid

The struggling airline industry recently got a lifeline from the federal government, thanks to an agreement that provided cash to airlines in exchange for maintaining most of their workforce through September. But with air travel down more than 90% due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, a full recovery by the fall is highly unlikely. And even when the public does come back, there will be changes to the way they travel.

All of this means that come October 1, airlines will have tough choices to make. Denny Kelly, retired airline pilot and aviation consultant, says the industry doesn't have many good options. "All the airlines are in serious trouble," he says. "They have more airplanes than they know what to do with, and they can't fly them because nobody wants to fly in them."

Despite all the international travel restrictions, some airlines are still running "essential" flights, but it's not nearly enough. Kelly tells KTRH he has seen what the airlines are going through. "American (Airlines) has got over 450 airplanes sitting on the ground," he says. "What are you gonna do with them? You can't fly 'em, because nobody wants to ride in them, but (the airline) has got to pay for them still."

Come this fall, Kelly predicts things could get ugly for the industry. "If it goes like I think it will, they'll probably be cutting people on October 1, on November 1, and so on," he says. "There's just no jobs for these people any more if planes aren't in the air."

Of course, there is also the likelihood airlines will be back before the federal government this fall with hat in hand. "They're brazen enough to do that," says Kelly. "They will ask for more money, and they will plead that if they don't get some help from the government that all of these airlines will go under...but that's already happening."

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