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Airlines plan for prolonged coronavirus travel drought



U.S. airlines expect many years before they can recover their business from the pandemic coronavirus, even if more than $ 100 billion is put together by tapping into government assistance and mortgaging assets including airplanes and frequent flier programs.

Carriers say they probably have enough cash to cope with a prolonged downturn. But passenger demand has been plagued for years, chief executives of United Airlines Holdings Inc. said. at Delta Air Lines Inc. this Sunday.

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Airlines have two main challenges: alleviating the fear of flying that lasted during the pandemic and re-inventing themselves to compete for a share of an air-travel business that suddenly became smaller.

“While the pandemic is the worst crisis in aviation history, it also gives us a chance,”

; United Nations Chief Executive Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart wrote on Friday in a memo to airline officials. .

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UAL UNITED AIRLINES HLDG. 34.16 -0.09 -0.26%
FROM DELTA AIR LINES INC. 31.47 +0.13 + 0.41%

United and Delta combined to lose $ 16.8 billion in the first nine months of the year. Both reduced their workers by at least 20%, including more than 13,000 furloughs at United.

“Make no mistake – we are still miles ahead of this marathon,” Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian wrote in a memo to employees on Thursday.

Delta, UNITED CEOS FORECAST THE RETURN OF BRAINESS TRAVEL

Airlines pushed for a second round of government assistance to prevent job cuts, hoping to be more prepared for recovery when demand returns. However, negotiations on a wider relief package were dragged on for months without resolution.

American Airlines Group Inc. at Southwest Airlines Co. is scheduled to report third-quarter results next week.

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AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC. 12.46 +0.23 + 1.88%
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 39.68 +0.88 + 2.27%

The passengers started back, but they were a trickle, not a surge. On Sunday, when nearly a million people passed through US airports, the volume was less than 60% less than the same time a year, and most days the volume was worse than that.

And with most of the company’s travel still on hold and international borders closed or subject to a range of entry requirements, some analysts see little room for improvement for a while. Delta expects sales in the fourth quarter to be 66% below last year’s levels. Mr. Kirby of United said travel demand is likely to be capped at half the typical levels until a vaccine is developed and made widely available. The business trip probably won’t go back to before 2024, he predicted.

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As people continue some elements of their normal lives — returning to offices or schools in some cases — airlines accelerate efforts to convince them to fly safely again.

That statement was confirmed this week by the results of a study of how virus particles move during flights, conducted by the Department of Defense, United, Boeing Co. etc.

With the coughing of mannequins that emit fluorescent tracer particles into the Boeing-wide spatial plans lent by United, the study found that aerosols are rapidly dissolved by aircraft ventilation systems and air filter. The risk of exposure is minimal even for passengers on long flights sitting next to an infected, the study found.

There are conversations: The study looked at what would happen if a passenger was infected, not many, and did not take into account the additional risks from passengers moving around the cabin or spinning their heads to communicate with one another.

Other academic researchers have recorded nearly four dozen instances when Covid-19 appears to have been transferred during flights, many of them early in the pandemic before masks were widely needed.

Military officials and airline executives said they were inspired by the results of the new study. On social media, United cited the study, which Mr. Kirby said shows the planes are “truly uniquely safe.”

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Although people may be encouraged to board planes, there are fewer places to go.

Efforts to create travel bubbles in Asia have plummeted, and increasing cases within Europe have resulted in more stringent travel restrictions there.

Something similar could play out in the US, if infection rates continue to rise. In the summer, an increase in cases in parts of the country prompted travel restrictions that shortened what was the start of a rebound, leaving airlines to determine how best to deliver fliers . Customers now book last minute, pay basgain-basement fares and fly short distances.

“We’re really looking at where people want to go next week,” Joe Esposito, Delta’s senior vice president of the network, said at an industry event this week.

United is tracking indicators such as New York skyscraper stay rates to make sense of when people might start traveling again for work, Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella said Thursday.

Carriers also take advantage of the opportunity to take up space at the same crowded airports. Southwest said this week flights will begin at major airports in Chicago and Houston, adding to its presence at a second airport in the same city and head against United at its hubs.

Mr. Kirby said United have their own plans. The airline was delayed returning to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, he said. Mr. Kirby has long said that he believes United made a mistake in leaving JFK in 2015 before joining the company.

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