More than a dozen U.S. senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have reached out to Delta Air Lines and JetBlue, urging executives at both airlines to restore employees’ hours or risk losing federal aid.
The letters sent this week claim reducing employee hours violates the intent of the Payroll Support Program established under the $2 trillion CARES Act for COVID-19 relief.
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“Your decision to cut employee hours is inconsistent with congressional intent and is a blatant and potentially illegal effort to skirt your requirements to keep workers on the payroll, and you should reverse this policy immediately,” the senators warned, according to The Washington Post.
“You should not take one penny more of bailout funds unless you are prepared to protect your workers’ jobs, pay and benefits,” the 13 senators added.
Delta is due to receive $5.4 billion and JetBlue will get $935 million as part of the $25 billion in CARES Act funds provided to protect airline workers’ jobs and pay through the end of September.
According to the letters, Delta was allegedly the first airline to cut employee hours after receiving COVID-19 relief while JetBlue has reduced hours for employees, including mechanics, passenger service agents and ramp workers since accepting federal funds.
The senators said that both airlines believe the reduced hours are in compliance with the CARES Act.
“Delta’s work hour reductions, which comply with the CARES Act, ultimately protect jobs,” Delta said in a statement to Reuters. Meanwhile, JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart told the outlet that “there are quite literally no hours for our crewmembers to work in many cases” due to the amount of suspended or reduced flights.
“This view is impossible to reconcile with the clear intent of the law,” the senators wrote. “Your federal financial assistance is conditioned on keeping your promises to workers.”
United Airlines also had plans to cut employee hours but was stopped by a union lawsuit. The carrier instead implemented voluntary reductions.
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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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