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TODAY'S DEBATE

Airlines for America: Well-being of travelers is our top priority

Throughout the pandemic, U.S. airlines have updated travel policies to offer increased flexibility for customers: Opposing view

Rebecca Spicer
Opinion contributor

Summer travel is an American tradition. Last summer, travelers were flying in record numbers. The Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 2.8 million people in a single day. This year, amid COVID-19, TSA is seeing record lows.

Air travel plummeted as travel bans and stay-at-home orders were imposed. Today, air travel is down about 90%, and U.S. carriers have parked more than 3,000 aircraft — half of the fleet. Airlines are burning $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion in cash each month.

Of the planes flying, 73% are less than 50% full. While social media may suggest flights are full, the fact is that only 8.5% of flights are more than 70% full. Airlines are attempting to leave some seats open for distancing when feasible, but not all circumstances permit that. Some airlines are working with passengers to make accommodations when possible.

The safety and well-being of all travelers is our top priority. Airlines have been adding layers of protection — from requiring facial coverings to enhancing cleaning protocols, such as electrostatic and fogging procedures.

Carriers are meeting or exceeding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines, sanitizing cabins and touch points such as tray tables, armrests, seat belts, vents and lavatories with disinfectants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Some have new boarding procedures and reduced beverage service, limiting interaction.

OUR VIEW:Airlines got help from taxpayers but aren't giving it back

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Most aircraft have high-efficiency particulate air filters, generating air as clean as an intensive care unit. According to the CDC, “because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights.”

Throughout the pandemic, U.S. airlines have updated travel policies to offer increased flexibility for customers. Complying with federal law, carriers issue refunds when they cancel a flight. The Department of Transportation’s website offers clarity for consumers with questions.

These are difficult times for our country. We are grateful to Congress and the administration for passing the CARES Act — 100% of the payroll support program funds received by carriers has gone to keeping employees on the job.

The CARES Act has provided a significant bridge during the most challenging time this industry has ever faced. As the country reopens, U.S. airlines look forward to helping lead our nation’s economic recovery.

Rebecca Spicer is senior vice president for communication of Airlines for America.

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