With bookings down 98%, planes still flying empty, and most of the world off-limits, to say that airlines are struggling is an understatement. Buoyed temporarily by taxpayer dollars, airlines groan on, but safe and healthy? Not a chance.
President Donald J. Trump was asked during a meeting with governors yesterday if the American public is confident to travel on U.S. airlines. Trump responded:
“They have great confidence, and they have great confidence in us, and they have great confidence in the airlines. We saved the airlines with $25 billion and another $25 billion. We have airlines that are now in good shape. I mean, obviously they are going to pick up with the fares and with the seats. But the airline industry is in good shape. We’ve been able to save the airline industry, which would have been devastating if that happened. So, they’re in good shape.”
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 13, 2020
It’s an election year and of course any sitting president standing for re-election is going to try to put a positive spin on situations. But good shape? What shape is that?
Last week at a town hall meeting on Fox News, Trump noted one potential upside to the lockdown:
“People are now staying in the United States, spending their money in the U.S. and I like that. I’ve been after that for a long time. You know that. I’ve been saying let’s stay in the U.S., spend your money here and they’re doing that. They are sort of forced to do that. We met with the airline companies yesterday and they are doing a fantastic job. And they are just not flying to areas that have a big problem. So, it’s going to all work out. Everyone has to be calm. It’s all going to work out.”
And yes, domestic travel will pick up this summer and could be a boom for several industries in the U.S.
Airlines are in the fight for their lives right now. Most Americans are still afraid to fly. Travel is picking up slowly, but still down over 90%, far worse than the 9/11 aftermath.
This is not the time for a victory lap. Rather, this is a time to keep working on smart, practical, sensible, and safe policies to promote public health while avoiding economic suicide.
image: White House