There’s nothing solid yet, but one consideration to help the hard-hit airline industry could be consolidation among carriers.
Airlines are losing money hand-over-fist with hundreds of planes parked and those that are flying half-empty – or less. According to CNBC, one thought would be for carriers to team up and consolidate flights.
“Does it make sense for more than one of us to be flying to a city when there are only a few seats filled on each plane”? one airline executive asked rhetorically in a conversation discussing the situation with CNBC. “It may make more sense to maintain service to that city, but put all passengers on one plane.”
So, how would it work? CNBC used the example of a route from New York City to St. Louis. American, Delta and Southwest all fly the route from LaGuardia Airport to Lambert International Airport. If the route were temporarily consolidated, all airlines would continue selling tickets on the route, but the carriers would agree to put all the passengers on one flight instead of three.
It sounds like a great idea in the interim until things get back to normal, right?
Not so fast.
It might be a great plan, but it’s a complicated plan that will need the approval of the federal government.
Andy Post, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, told CNBC, “This is an important issue and the Department supports the intent of maintaining a national network of air service to communities across the country. We will have further guidance about how this will be accomplished in the days to come.”
In addition, the carriers themselves will have to work out the scheduling issues as well as a plan for how to share costs.
But for now, it’s much-needed. CNBC noted that just 5 percent to 15 percent of flights are filled to capacity, and on Saturday, March 28, the Transportation Security Administration screened just 184,026 passengers at U.S. airports compared to 2.17 million passengers on the same day last year, a decline of more than 91%.
“I can assure you, we’re losing money on every single flight — and big money — so that can’t be sustained indefinitely,” Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said during a video message distributed to employees on Friday morning.
“We need to continue flying, as requested, and serving those that need to travel,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said late last week in a video message to employees. “These are still extraordinarily difficult times and we need to do everything we can support each other and ensure we do not waste one dollar of this government support.”
Comments & Discussion
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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