This isn’t good optics.
Just after being granted over $5 billion in government aid, Delta Air Lines filed to suspend flights at nine US airports.
Why is this such a big deal?
Well, it goes against a government mandate stating that airlines receiving government help in this particular package must still serve all of its destinations.
The Affected Airports
According to M Live, the airports in question are:
- Brunswick, GA (BQK)
- Flint, MI (FNT)
- Hilton Head, SC (HHH)
- Kalamazoo, MI (AZO)
- Lansing, MI (LAN)
- Melbourne, FL (MLB)
- Peoria, IL (PIA)
- Pocatello, ID (PIH)
- Worcester, MA (ORH)
Most of those cities are within one or two hours’ driving distance of other airports served by Delta (and/or other airlines).
It’s About The People. Mmmhmm.
M Live reports that in its request to the government, Delta says business is bad at those particular stations. And that from April 1-22, the carrier flew an average of eight passengers per day from Flint, six from Lansing, and five from Kalamazoo.
But is that really the reason Delta wants to suspend service?
Keep in mind the government said airlines could operate as few as one flight a week from their destinations — provided they kept operations going at those airports.
The airline said in its filing:
Delta remains committed to ensuring that every community it serves will continue to receive convenient access to its domestic network during this public health emergency. However, nothing is more important to Delta than the safety of its employees and customers. During this pandemic, airport employees and crews must place themselves at risk to staff each flight and Delta seeks to reduce this risk as much as possible.
One way Delta seeks to minimize health risks to its workforce is by limiting the number of airport stations that remain open for business during the COVID-19 health emergency to reduce the total number of airport staff who must report to frontline work.
Now, I suspect there’s a good deal of credence in their statement.
But Delta took a shot at United — who filed a similar exemption request for Kalamazoo and several different airports:
“United sought relief for those points for solely economic reasons, highlighting historically low load factors …
Here, by contrast, Delta seeks an exemption to protect the health and safety of airport staff by reducing their exposure to the health risks associated with COVID-19. Delta submits that the public interest in protecting airport workers from the risk of exposure to a potentially deadly virus outweighs the inconvenience of the additional driving distance to access Delta’s network for such a small number of passengers.”
Call me crazy — but does it look a little bit like Delta’s taking the government money and running? At the very least, their timing just stinks.
I certainly hope these are only short-term suspensions — and Delta doesn’t ultimately cut these airports from their schedule for good.
Or let this start a precedent we see for the next several years.
Some airlines now require masks for travel. Get yours at Amazon.
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