JetBlue CEO Calls for New U.S. Aid With ‘Day of Reckoning’ Near

JetBlue Airways Corp.’s top executive is joining an industry push for additional federal help as passenger totals plateau at about a quarter of year-earlier levels.

Airlines are “in a very, very critical situation right now,” said Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes as he called on the Trump administration and Congress to resolve a stalemate over a new economic stimulus plan. Carriers have said that the stalled travel recovery may force them to cut tens of thousands of jobs on Oct. 1, when restrictions expire on $25 billion of existing U.S. payroll aid.

“They absolutely have to come together and build a stimulus bill to help the country continue to get through this,” Hayes said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “The day of reckoning is coming for the industry, because we can’t continue with where we are in terms of numbers of jobs we have and see demand at 25% to 30% of where we’d normally be.”

JetBlue CEO Calls for New U.S. Aid With ‘Day of Reckoning’ Near

JetBlue has joined other U.S. carriers in trimming its flying this month amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases and quarantine requirements adopted by some states. The New York-based carrier will fly about 40% of its normal schedule in August, down 10 to 15 percentage points from its earlier plan, Hayes said.

Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and other carriers had to backtrack on earlier plans to boost August and September flying when a fledgling rebound in leisure travel fizzled. Delta CEO Ed Bastian and his counterpart at Southwest, Gary Kelly, have called on the government to extend payroll aid beyond the end of September.

Nearly 150,000 workers at the nation’s four largest U.S. airlines already have left the companies voluntarily or taken extended leave as carriers adjust to reduced demand. About 25% of JetBlue workers have taken such offers, Hayes said, and the airline is trying to avoid forced layoffs.

Still, JetBlue is maintaining plans to start trans-Atlantic flights next year, assuming approval of a coronavirus vaccine or treatment. It’s “reasonable” to expect JetBlue to begin service to London in the third quarter of 2021, Hayes said.

The airline won’t receive its first Airbus SE A321LR aircraft, a longer-range model that is needed for the London flights, until early next year.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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