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Airlines Post Best Passenger Numbers Since Before Pandemic, but Lag Massively from 2019 Enplanements

More than 800,000 Americans passed through TSA checkpoints on Monday, the most since mid-March. The uptick comes as key Senators have voiced support for an additional round of payroll assistance for airlines.

According to federal data, 831,789 passengers boarded flights on Monday, marking the two best weeks for airlines in nearly five months and the second consecutive week of improvement. Despite the welcome news, overall passenger traffic remains low, at only 30% of what it was in 2019. Analysts are cautioning that the summer rush for airlines has not been enough to prevent potential job losses this fall..

“Without action from our elected officials, airline workers will face massive layoffs come October 1st” said IAM Transportation General Vice President Sito Pantoja. “All airline workers need to contact their elected officials and demand action. Every day that goes by without a deal is unacceptable.”


In July, airline executives announced plans to cut nearly 100,000 positions as soon as federal protections expire on October 1st. Overall, job losses in the sector could soar into the hundreds of thousands.

In response, a coalition of airline unions led the way and asked members to contact lawmakers asking for an extension of payroll assistance for carriers, which would postpone job cuts until at least March 2021. The largest airline union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, produced tens of thousands of messages to Congress and arranged dozens of meetings with legislators. Airlines supported the union efforts, with CEOs at United, American, and Southwest offering public efforts to follow the lobbying campaign.

The Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives rounded up a majority willing to support extending the measure. In early August, key Republican Senators and the Trump Administratuion also lent their support, leading many to believe that an additional $25 billion was becoming more likely. However, no plan to extend airline payroll assistance exists so far, and any future agreement may still be weeks away.

Although tens of thousands of Delta Air Lines employees have taken voluntary separation programs and leaves of absence, it appears that may not be enough to mitigate layoffs come this fall if no deal on the next pandemic relief measure is reached.

"If we can keep using good voluntary measures to get through this, we can mitigate furloughs but it’s probably hard to say for sure that we’ll be able to do that completely," said Delta CEO Ed Bastian.

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