Why it matters: US airlines are preparing for a complete shutdown of all passenger flights across the country. While the government has shied away from pushing a domestic travel ban, airlines could make it happen voluntarily if it isn’t implemented officially.
The news comes from a Wall Street Journal report that cites anonymous industry and federal officials. It states that government agencies are considering ordering a shutdown as cancelations increase due to the coronavirus. According to Flightstats, there have been almost 9,000 domestic flights canceled today, including 1,666 from Delta, 1,302 from American Airlines, and 1,097 from Southwest Airlines.
With around 80 million US citizens under lockdown, airline executives, pilot-union leaders, and federal transportation officials expect more cancelations and schedule reductions in the coming weeks.
The situation has been made worse by air traffic controllers and technicians who maintain their gear being infected with the virus, meaning they have to stay at home and the premises closing for a deep clean. Almost a dozen facilities have had to suspend operations after positive cases.
The Journal adds that major carriers, including American, Delta, and United, are preparing for a possible shutdown of all domestic flights. The vast majority of international flying has already been eliminated, and there are plans to cut domestic flights by up to 40 percent. The Transportation Security Administration reported an 80 percent drop in travelers Sunday compared to the same day last year.
For the airlines, a government order to shutdown would be the preferred option as it means they’re more likely to receive federal aid.