Now that those terms have expired, airlines have begun furloughing thousands of workers and are cutting additional routes — service reductions that are hitting smaller cities especially hard. Talks for additional aid have dragged on for months without a deal.
American Airlines, for example, initially suspended service to 11 cities from Oct. 7 to Nov. 3 and has recently extended those suspensions until the end of November. CEO Doug Parker told CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” on Oct. 8 that Americans would be forced to make cuts to other markets if the government fails to provide additional aid to the industry.
For six of those airports, American is the only carrier operating scheduled flights. Many of them are hundreds of miles from the nearest airport or major city.
Service cuts at airports like these are more than an inconvenience. Airports, even small ones, provide a wide range of jobs, everything from maintenance and food service to taxi driving and construction. Some airports may get by with private and chartered flights, but scheduled airline flights provide a valuable stream of visitors and revenue.
Congress approved $10 billion for U.S. airports in the March CARES Act, and the industry is seeking $15 billion more. Airports Council International, an industry group, expects U.S. commercial airports to lose an additional $23 billion in revenue this year. Airports generate revenue from airlines through fees for landing aircraft and gate rentals that airlines pay and from a host of other sources like retail and parking, all of which are suffering because of the pandemic’s toll on air travel.