WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department said Tuesday that JetBlue Airways Corp <JBLU.O> and Spirit Airlines Co <SAVE.N> can halt some flights through Sept. 30 amid the massive travel falloff due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under government orders issued Tuesday, JetBlue can halt flights to 16 major U.S. cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Seattle and Las Vegas, while Spirit can halt flights to six airports including Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle.
Since March, U.S air travel demand has fallen by about 95%. U.S. airlines are cutting costs, canceling flights, parking planes and struggling to stay afloat. As a condition of receiving federal grants, they must continue most existing flight routes unless they receive specific approval from U.S. regulators.
Spirit said that requiring the flights “during a period of almost zero demand is against the public interest as it wastes scarce financial resources while adding virtually nothing.”
JetBlue said it “fully intends to gradually resume service to the levels prescribed (by the Transportation Department) at each of these airports as soon as it is both safe to do so and when even the slightest customer demand re-emerges.”
Earlier this month, the department rejected most of Spirit’s requests to halt flights and said Spirit had to resume flights to the New York City area after it suspended service to all New York, New Jersey and Connecticut airports it serves.
Delta Air Lines <DAL.N> has asked for approval to halt flights to nine airports including three in Michigan. Delta says between April 1-April 22, just one to 14 passengers daily flew on the airline’s planes each way from those nine airports.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Steve Orlofsky)