With government and health officials saying the apex of the coronavirus is expected sometime this week in New York – now the epicenter of the global pandemic – United Airlines is reducing operations at LaGuardia Airport and Newark-Liberty International, both in the New York City area.
The U.S. has more than 308,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 8,400 deaths as of Saturday, April 4. New York City has more than 20 percent of those confirmed cases, 63,300, and just over 1,900 deaths.
The changes at the two airports took effect today, Sunday, April 5 and are expected to last three weeks, according to a letter to United employees coronavirus-united-airlines-slashes-flights-newark-laguardia/2949222001/” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>obtained by USA TODAY.
“As the situation in New York and New Jersey worsens, we are taking another major step at Newark and LaGuardia to help keep our employees safe and play our part in helping to mitigate the spread of the outbreak in the Tri-State area,” Greg Hart, United’s executive vice president and chief operations officer, said in the letter to employees.
At Newark, a United hub, the airline is slashing 90 percent of its normal daily flights, going from 139 flights per day that fly to 62 different destinations to 15 daily flights to nine cities. At LaGuardia, United is dropping all but two of its 18 flights per day to four destinations down to two daily flights to just one destination.
Those new changes still allow United to comply with the provisions of the CARES Act bailout, in which the federal government demanded that airlines maintain a minimum level of service through at least September.
United’s decision to dramatically reduce service in New York obviously means less employees needed at both airports, but Hart the airline’s workers at Newark and LaGuardia will still be paid.
“Importantly, whether you are on duty or not, we will maintain the pay and benefits of *all* local employees scheduled to work in those locations during this temporary reduction,” he wrote. “And we will be flexible in accommodating any employees who commute to either of these stations and ask our ground-based employees to remain on call for critical and immediate operational needs as they arise, like diversions and humanitarian flights.”
The program will likely spread to other cities in the coming weeks, United said.
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Survey Highlights Coronavirus Changes Airline Passengers Want
A recent survey of business and leisure airline passengers highlighted the guidelines and health-related equipment travelers are looking for when boarding a plane during and after the coronavirus outbreak.
According to information from Honeywell, around 72 percent were more concerned with the environment on an airplane than in an airport, which only saw 28 percent of respondents voice the most concern.
Nearly 60 percent of respondents also cited social distancing as their top priority during travel, while about half of those surveyed cited air quality (51 percent) and personal protective equipment such as masks (47 percent) as top priorities.
“This survey demonstrates that passengers want high-tech solutions to best validate the entire travel experience as it relates to health and safety,” Honeywell vice president Kevin Suits said in a statement. “Honeywell offers a variety of relevant solutions today that we can bring forward to support travelers.
“We continue to speak with airline executives and transportation leaders about the types of new products and services that would support their efforts to further clean and monitor the cleanliness of their aircraft,” Suits continued. “We are quickly bringing to market new offerings that would be a win-win for our industry and all of us who love to fly.”
In terms of in-flight amenities most-desired by passengers, masks, hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes top the list. Travelers also revealed that cleanliness validation via technology was by far (60 percent) the most important way to provide confidence.
A portion of surveyed passengers also thinks that providing cleaning supplies directly to the passenger would help ensure confidence in the cleanliness of the cabin.
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