As worldwide air travel stalls during the coronavirus pandemic, the Los Angeles mayor has warned that the city’s airline industry could take longer to rebound from Covid-19 than after the 9/11 terror attack.
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on Thursday that plane travel to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) had dropped to an historic low since the start of the pandemic.
“You hear that plane that just went overhead, there’s not many of them these days,” commented the mayor during his daily coronavirus briefing.
At present, flights are all but suspended at LAX, the world’s fourth busiest airport and the busiest airport in the US based on origin and destination travel.
“After 9/11 we saw the biggest drop in plane flights in our airport’s history, about 55 per cent of our plane travel dropped off and it took 10 years to come back,” said Mr Garcetti.
Warning that the damage caused by the coronavirus shutdown was unprecedented in scale, the mayor said that “right now, 95 per cent of our plane travel has stopped. It gives you an idea of the scale and the scope of how devastating this is”.
International Air Transport Association data published two weeks ago showed that the demand for global air travel fell 14 per cent in February, the most since 9/11.
At the same time, the US Transportation Security Administration said fewer than 95,000 passengers were screened at airport checkpoints across the US on Wednesday, a 10-year low.
That comes as Airlines for America, an industry group representing American, Delta, Southwest, United and other US airlines, announced a 71 per cent cut in operational capacity in response to the nationwide coronavirus shutdown.
As an aviation hub, the potential economic impact on LA will be substantial whilst international and domestic travel is suspended.
“We cannot let our workforce bear the brunt of this emergency. We have to help them, added LA’s mayor on Thursday. “Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people depend on the economy of our airport.”
Mr Garcetii announced that LAX will see $323 m (£259 m) in support from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to maintain workers and airport facilities.
Meanwhile, airlines and their contractors will receive $29 bn (£23 bn) on the condition that they retain employees until September 30, as stated under the same legislation.
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