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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American Airlines Increasing Domestic Service for the Summer
Like the rest of the United States, American Airlines is ready for the summer.
As the demand for air travel slowly rises, American is bringing back suspended routes, offering double AAdvantage miles, reopening Admirals Club lounges and offering enhanced cleaning protocols.
American is planning to fly 55 percent of its domestic schedule and nearly 20 percent of its international schedule in July as compared to the same period last year, totaling around 40 percent of the airline’s systemwide capacity compared to July 2019.
Demand has started to rebound, as the carrier reported it flew a daily average of about 110,000 customers per day in May, which is an increase of 71 percent over the approximately 32,000 passengers it transported daily in April.
“We’re seeing a slow but steady rise in domestic demand. After a careful review of data, we’ve built a July schedule to match,” American Senior Vice President Vasu Raja said in a statement. “Our July schedule includes the smallest year-over-year capacity reduction since March. We’ll continue to look for prudent opportunities to restore service so our customers can travel whenever and wherever they are ready.”
Starting on June 22, American will begin reopening Admirals Club lounges around the country with pre-packaged snack offerings and a full-service bar for customers to enjoy complimentary beverages.
As for the airline’s commitment to health and safety guidelines, American will utilize enhanced cleaning measures, enforce social distancing protocols and provide limited food and beverage offerings.
The carrier is also allowing customers to book with confidence, as American announced it would waive change fees for customers purchasing tickets by June 30. Travelers are allowed to change their origin and destination cities as part of this offer, but must pay any fare difference.
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