Airlines lose millions in political standoff

| BLOOMBERG 28 Jan 2019

US airline bosses stepped up their criticism of the partial government shutdown, warning that the closing threatens to snarl air travel.

"We are close to a tipping point as employees are about to miss a second paycheck," JetBlue Airways chief executive Robin Hayes said on a conference call Thursday with analysts and investors. "The longer this goes on, the longer it will take for the air travel infrastructure to rebound."

Chief executives at larger carriers backed him up, with American Airlines Doug Parker warning of "long lines" and "delayed airspace." Southwest Airlines said it lost out on as much as US$15 million in sales (HK$117.69) this month, and chief executive Gary Kelly called the closing "maddening."

"We'd be crazy not to be concerned about this," Kelly said in an interview. "Everyone needs to be on notice and on guard that this shutdown could harm the economy and it could harm air travel," he said on a conference call with analysts and investors.

Delta Air Lines said last week that the political standoff was costing it about US$25 million a month.

American said it was seeing a "moderate" softness in tickets purchased 14 days or less before travel.

On Wednesday, 7.5 percent of US airport security officers were off the job, more than double the 3 percent rate on the same day a year earlier, the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement.

Still, wait times in security lanes generally were less than 30 minutes, the agency said. The Federal Aviation Administration said: "We have not observed any appreciable difference in performance over the last several weeks compared to the same periods during the previous two years."

Union leaders warned of an uptick in worrisome signs as workers face a second pay period without getting a salary.

Among the air-traffic ranks of young trainees, there have been at least a dozen resignations, an unusually high number, said Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association union. This signifies a growing frustration with the shutdown, Rinaldi said at a press conference at Washington's Reagan National Airport.

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