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U.S. airlines reduce passenger flights amid coronavirus pandemic

American Airlines has scheduled its first cargo-only flights in decades amid the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
American Airlines has scheduled its first cargo-only flights in decades amid the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 21 (UPI) -- United and Southwest airlines have reduced flights and American is flying its first cargo-only flights in decades amid a slow-down in business due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Southwest made the decision to cancel approximately 1,000 of its almost 4,000 daily flights from Sunday until April 14, amid the "drop in travel demand", a statement Friday said. The airline will also suspend service to all of its international destinations at the end of the operating day on Sunday.

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"We have made this decision due to the number of governments restricting air travel across their borders, as well as guidance from the United States government, and we hope to resume normal operations to our international destinations on May 4, subject to change," the statement said.

Then, from April 14 through June 5, Southwest will reduce capacity by at least 20 percent, according to a previously revised schedule.

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"We sincerely regret any inconvenience to our customers and our employees," the statement said.

Meanwhile, United Airlines said in a statement Friday that it is reducing its international schedule by 95 percent for April.

American Airlines announced a day earlier it would use its grounded passenger aircraft to fly its first cargo-only flight in decades between the United States and Europe and "help keep business moving," amid coronavirus.

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The first cargo-only flight since 1984 -- when American retired the last of its Boeing 747 freighters -- has been scheduled to depart Friday from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and land Saturday at Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

The airline said in the announcement it will operate two round-trip cargo flights between Dallas and Frankfurt over the next four days. The flights are expected to carry medical supplies, active U.S. military mail, electronics to support people working at home and e-commerce packages.

"It's an honor to be part of these cargo-only flights, said Ken Jarrell, fleet service clerk, cargo services, DFW, in a statement. "Our team members across the airline are ready and willing to do what it takes to make sure people have the things they need during these unprecedented times."

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Earlier in the week, Airlines for America, the trade group for U.S. airlines, called for $60 billion in direct assistance and loan guarantees amid slowing business from the coronavirus pandemic. Three global alliances, Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance, representing nearly 60 airlines worldwide, also pleaded for help from government and stakeholders amid estimates of billions of dollars in lost revenue due to the decline in travel.

The reduced business has impacted workers at airports across the country. In New York and New Jersey alone, 1,200 airport workers, employed at airport restaurants and stores operated by OTG, were laid off with no severance and told their health insurance would lapse on March 31.

The laid-off workers were employed at La Guardia, Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports, according to the union representing them, Unite Here Local 100.

"You can't pay people," when the company is taking in very little revenue, senior OTG executive Lawrence Schwartz said.

"The airports are dead," he added. "No one's flying."

United Arab Emirates on Thursday effectively temporarily suspended issuance of all entry visas to the country, a Dubai Airports statement said.

All scheduled UAE passenger flights from several countries have been suspended, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Italy, except for Rome, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, People's Republic of China, except Beijing, Syria, Turkey and Morocco.

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