United Airlines and American Airlines have slashed the number of flights offered at New York City-area airports as the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc on both the city and the airline industry.
With stay at home orders in place in many states and officials advising against travel, the airlines are paring down their flights to just a handful.
American Airlines once flew 170 departures from LaGuardia Airport, 80 from John F. Kennedy International Airport and 21 from Newark Liberty International Airport on an average day. But beginning April 7 and running at least until May 6, the airline will fly eight daily flights from LaGuardia, three from JFK and two from Newark. An additional flight from Newark to Chicago will be suspended April 9.
“This limited New York service will continue to provide critical connectivity for our customers, including transportation for any essential personnel and goods needed by the community and medical professionals battling the disease,” Senior Vice President of Operations at American Airlines David Seymour said.
United Airlines Vice President of Communications Stephen Restivo said the company is pulling back “as far as you can go.”
The airline will operate two flights from LaGuardia and 15 at Newark, according to a distributed notice from Chief Operations Officer Greg Hart.
Hart told employees to stay home but assured them they would be paid.
“Importantly, whether you are on duty or not, we will maintain the pay and benefits of *all* local employees scheduled to work in those locations during this temporary reduction,” the memo said.
The company is also working with the New York City mayor’s office to offer free travel for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals treating the virus.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that JetBlue and United Airlines would be offering free roundtrip flights for medical volunteers traveling to New York City.
The reduction in service is a dramatic move in a pattern the industry has seen since the pandemic began. As demand plummeted, airlines have canceled significant portions of their schedules, and before the weekend, industry metrics showed carriers flying about half of their scheduled flights with about one in 10 seats filled.
A $50 billion aviation bailout will keep airlines in business and employees on the job for the next six months, but officials warn customers could still see less flight capacity and higher fares if the recovery from the pandemic is slow.
CNN’s Evan McMorris-Santoro and Evan Perez contributed to this report.