Airlines for America, the lobbying group representing major U.S. carriers, has warned that the U.S. airline industry is unlikely to bounce back from the COVID-19 drop for at least four years.
“We don’t see any significant increase in demand,” Nicholas Calio, the CEO of Airlines for America, told reporters during a media call on Thursday. “We don’t see it fully rebounding until 2024. We are doing everything we can to keep our companies afloat. People talk about the situation being dire. It is dire. Right now, we’re fighting for survival. No bones about it.”
Calio said that the government would need to step in to offer another lifeline, preferably in the form of a new CARES act, which was passed in March and provided $25 billion in grants and loans to the airline industry, with the intention of keeping pilots, attendants and other necessary personnel employed until Oct. 1. Negotiations on extending this stimulus package have stalled between congressional Republicans and Democrats.
With October on the horizon and the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, multiple airlines have announced the need to cut staff unless more federal help arrives. This includes United, which plans to furlough 16,370 employees, and American Airlines, which plans to furlough 19,000.
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that his administration would be assisting airlines — which he called “a tough business in good times” — but did not give further details.
“People will be reluctant to travel — or even to book travel — until there is a strong degree of confidence that the health crisis and associated risks are behind us,” the latest Airlines for America report on the state of the airline industry reads. “The COVID-19 global pandemic constitutes a black-swan public health crisis that will only be solved once an effective vaccine is developed, but vaccines usually take a year or longer to develop.”
These statements are in line with predictions from the International Air Transport Association, which also announced at the end of July that the global airline business was unlikely to return in full force until 2024, citing continual COVID-19 flareups in the United States as a contributing factor.
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