Archive for David Slotnick

More than 32,000 airline workers are losing their jobs. Here’s how they’re bracing for unemployment, health coverage amid a pandemic, and whether they’d return to a flailing industry

american airlines
Nearly 20,000 American Airlines employees and thousands of others are losing their jobs as CARES Act funding requirements expired.
  • Tens of thousands of airline workers are being furloughed as CARES Act funding requirements have expired.
  • A last-minute funding extension — which workers and labor groups insist would have been a jobs program, rather than a bailout — never materialized.
  • Business Insider spoke with airline employees facing prolonged unemployment in a faltering economy, plus a loss of health coverage during a global pandemic. Despite the current stress and uncertainty, most say they'd go back to the airline life in a heartbeat.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In five years as a flight attendant, Tiana Davenport has seen the world, ferrying passengers from San Francisco to Singapore, Paris, Frankfurt, and Tokyo, and has overcome unexpected life-threatening medical conditions. But this week Davenport finds herself grounded, along with tens of thousands of fellow airline workers.

US airlines began the process of furloughing 32,000 employees on Thursday, as protections dictated by the CARES Act expired, victims of the worst crisis in the industry's history.

As travel demand fell as much as 97% early in the pandemic, Congress offered aid to airline workers through a $25 billion payroll support program (PSP) as part of the CARES Act. In exchange for the payroll aid and other loans, airlines agreed to not furlough or lay off workers through at least September 30. (Other conditions included prohibitions on stock buybacks and shareholder dividends, as well as caps on executive pay.)

That was in March, when airlines and lawmakers had reason to believe the pandemic would be largely under control by the fall, with air travel headed toward a recovery. But as outbreaks early in the summer showed that COVID-19 was anything but beaten, a modest uptick in demand flattened, stalling at roughly 40% of 2019 levels.

As their finances deteriorated, airlines started planning to lay off or furlough huge numbers of employees come October 1. They and employee unions have campaigned for an extension of the PSP, either on its own or as part of a larger stimulus package. Despite bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, along with the White House, no agreement has been reached. And now, time has run out.

Although tens of thousands of airline workers nationwide have taken buyouts, early retirement packages, and unpaid leaves, involuntary furloughs kicked in on Thursday. Roughly 19,000 staff at American Airlines are losing their jobs, along with 13,000 at United and hundreds each at Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, Hawaiian, and Spirit. Under collective bargaining agreements, furloughed airline workers are given the option to return to their jobs before the carriers hire new replacements once demand improves.

Flight attendants make up the largest share of those furloughed, with gate agents baggage handlers, maintenance technicians, and others also affected. The men and women doing the flying have avoided the worst of the pain: Delta is set to furlough 1,900 pilots on November 1, while Southwest said it has raised enough cash to avoid furloughs until 2021.

A loss of health coverage, livelihoods, and a special way of life

As they lose their jobs, airline workers have been frustrated by what they see as unfair vitriol directed at airlines and bailouts, despite the effects the pandemic has had on regular workers. While airlines face ire over accepting what has been characterized as "bailout" money for a wealthy industry, unions and workers insist that the CARES Act funding was more akin to a jobs program.

"This is real people moving their stuff into their cars and trying to figure out how to survive," Association of Flight Attendants-CWA president Sara Nelson said on Capitol Hill last week.

"We're actual people, this is our life," said Davenport, a union member who works for United. "I read some of the comments online, with how upset people are, about bailouts and stock buybacks. Just know that's not us making those decisions, we're real people who work with these airlines."

Davenport, like many workers, is especially worried about losing her health insurance during a pandemic. In 2019, the 30-year-old suffered a spontaneous collapsed lung while working a flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco. During a surgery to prevent a reoccurrence, doctors discovered endometriosis developing in a way that could cause further breathing problems.

Davenport paid just $370 out-of-pocket for multiple hospitalizations and surgeries, she said, and currently receives a monthly injection at no cost that keeps her condition at bay. Now, she's looking at up to $3,000 per month just for for that preventative treatment.

"I work out, I eat pretty healthy," Davenport said. "And I have health issues now that I never thought I'd have."

"It's not just travel, it's across all industries," she said. "There are millions of people that are struggling, just have a little compassion."

While cyclical downturns are not unusual for the airline industry, what makes this one especially painful is the fact that the larger economy and job market are so badly affected, too. 

David Ishmael, another United flight attendant represented by the AFA, was planning on eventually pursuing a pilots license, ideally through United's in-house flight training program. But he doesn't expect to be able to afford it while furloughed — especially if he can't find another job with comparable pay.

"Regardless of qualifications, the job market overall is very suppressed," he said. "It's still very difficult to find other employment. People just aren't hiring."

Many workers plan to tread water as the pandemic drags on, but hope to return to the skies the second the pandemic is over. 

"I love this job, I don't know what else there is to say," said an American Airlines flight attendant, who plans to apply for unemployment and try to pick up shifts with Uber and DoorDash, as well as continue regular work with the Air Force Reserve. "I don't want to do anything else."

"I'm going to finish the degree I started before I left for this job," said another furloughed American Airlines employee, who said she plans to pursue a master's once she finishes her remaining few college credits. "I'll be ready whenever we are called back. Even though we are experiencing tough times, I still love what I do. I could never be as happy working a 9-5 as I am in the skies."

Being part of an airline in any capacity is unlike anything industry, say the hundreds of thousands who work for the nation's air carriers. Even workers who are not part of flight crews — baggage handlers, corporate employees, and the like — tend to have generous free (or cheap) travel benefits. For flight attendants and pilots, especially, having the chance to take advantage of flexible scheduling and fun layovers beats any alternative.

"People will say 'oh, but what's the point, you're only in that country for 24 hours.' And I'll say yeah, but it's not going to be the last time," Davenport said about how she tries to schedule layovers. "I just love it."

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Disney will lay off 28,000 theme park workers as the pandemic continues to ravage its business

Disney World re-opening coronavirus masks Monsters Inc
Disney will lay off 28,000 workers from its theme park division as its California parks remain closed. Other locations, including in Florida, have reopened with limited capacity.

Disney will lay off 28,000 workers at its US theme parks, the company said on Tuesday.

The layoffs come as the company's Anaheim, California parks — California Adventure and Disneyland — remain shuttered. Disney's other resorts in Florida, Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo have reopened with limited capacity.

"As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business," Disney's head of parks, Josh D'Amaro wrote in a letter to employees reported by the Washington Post.

About two-thirds of the laid off workers were part-time employees, CNBC reported, and most had already been furloughed. 

Disney's parks, experiences, and consumer products segment — which incorporates its sprawling theme park business — accounted for 37% of Disney's $69.6 billion in revenue in 2019, more than any other business unit.

Disney reported a $4.72 billion loss for the second quarter, its first quarterly loss in almost 20 years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Cash-strapped airlines must gamble on how many travelers will book last minute Thanksgiving flights — and they’ve got no room for error

Empty Plane coronavirus pandemic airplane
New data shows American Airlines and United Airlines currently see 25% as many November bookings as they did at this time in 2019 — and Delta Air Lines is looking at just 12%.
  • The Thanksgiving weekend is the most important time of the year for US airlines.
  • However, bookings for November are down as much as 88% compared to this time last year, data from airline analysis firm OAG show.
  • Airlines are hoping for a surge in last-minute bookings, keeping with trends during the pandemic, but the industry remains in a tailspin as travel demand fails to sufficiently recover.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

 

Fresh off a weak summer travel season during which Americans largely hunkered at home or took to the roads, America's airlines have a new looming disaster ahead of them: a soft Thanksgiving and holiday travel season.

New analyses by airline analytics firm OAG, along with data provided by Cirium and examined by Business Insider, show that the first holiday travel season of the COVID-19 pandemic may force carriers to make costly decisions as they gamble on whether demand will grow closer to the Thanksgiving weekend.

Apart from modest spikes in demand during the summer, particularly around Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, demand has settled at a "new normal," roughly 30% of 2019's levels. That's partly because business travel is barely existent right now, while leisure travel remains minimal.

Although carriers hope for stronger demand over the holidays as Americans visit friends and relatives, there are so far no signs of that materializing. American Airlines and United Airlines currently see 25% as many November bookings as they did at this time in 2019, OAG found. Delta Air Lines is looking at just 12% of last year's bookings.

That could spell disaster for struggling US airlines, according to R.W. Mann, an airline industry analyst and consultant.

"The Thanksgiving holidays are typically a peak traffic and profit period. At some airlines, in some years, the single highest profit days," he said. "The Christmas-New Year holiday week can be relatively high volume, depending on the day of week, but not as strong as Thanksgiving days."

Worsening the potential pain, many customers could book travel using vouchers: US carriers owe more than $10 billion to customers over flights cancelled early in the pandemic. Every voucher redeemed is a booking for which the airline earn no new cash (although it does remove a liability from the airlines' balance sheets).

Moreover, leisure bookings are typically cheaper than business fares, meaning airlines will make a lower yield on holiday travel than they would normally hope. Even though holiday bookings are usually leisure-heavy, they're still supplemented by business travelers — people heading home from meetings or site visits, for instance. Since price-conscious holiday travelers book up all the low fares, airlines could make even higher yields than normal from those corporate travelers heading home.

This is particularly bleak as major US airlines try to slow their daily cash burn as the pandemic continues to decimate revenue. Airlines are aiming to reach a daily cash burn rate of zero by the end of the year, after losing as much as $100 million a day during the height of pandemic lockdowns.

One glimmer of hope remains: Lately, passengers have been booking flights closer to departure than ever before, waiting until they know they'll be able to make the trip — and avoid localized virus outbreaks or onerous quarantine restrictions — before booking.

Delta, for instance, is seeing more bookings within seven days of travel than it ever has in the past, CEO Ed Bastian said last week, speaking to investors at a webinar hosted by Neuberger Berman.

"People are deciding to travel short term because they're not quite ready to make longterm plans," Bastian said.

Scheduling and rescheduling as the pandemic crushes travel demand

A last-minute surge, however, could present its own challenges.

In normal times, airlines tend to publish their flight schedules about 11 months in advance, tweaking specific flights or routes as they see how demand actually manifests.

This has largely continued during the pandemic, with airlines publishing complete advance schedules.

However, airlines are now "republishing" their schedules somewhere between 3-6 weeks ahead of time, slashing routes and frequencies based the latest demand forecasts. After these revisions, airlines have generally flown roughly 40-50% of their 2019 capacity.

American Airlines worker airport pandemic coronavirus covid-19
Airlines typically publish their schedules 11 months in advance. During the pandemic, airlines have been republishing revised — and reduced — schedules for a given month about 3-6 weeks ahead of time.

As of Monday afternoon, Delta was the only one of the big three US airlines to adjust its November schedule, according to data obtained via Cirium. The airline has scheduled 93,233 domestic flights, about 5,400 more than it will fly in October, but down from 139,771 in November 2019. (Those numbers include flights sold by Delta but operated under its brand by regional carriers.)

For November, that's a 33% year-over-year reduction, compared to a 42% year-over-year reduction in October, suggesting that the airline is predicting a last-minute surge in bookings.

Predicting holiday demand is a unique challenge during unprecedented times.

Planning the schedule for Thanksgiving will be tricky, though. Airlines gambling on a late booking surge must decide whether to take planes out of storage, and schedule crews and layovers, well before those bookings would materialize.

Airlines use a variety of data points to predict actual demand, including website visits and searches.

"We've been adjusting our schedules 30 to 45 days out of every month, which enables us to accurately match supply to customer demand much closer in," Ankit Gupta, United's head of domestic network and route planning, told Business Insider in a statement.

But the scale of potential last minute Thanksgiving travel leaves little room for error. If an airline overestimates, it could end up with half-full planes criss-crossing the US, operating at a loss as airlines try to slow their daily cash burn. If it underestimates demand, it risks upsetting customers who can't find flights home for the holidays, and losing out on potential revenue. 

United Airlines Mask Airplane
It is hard to predict whether airlines will see a surge in last-minute travel demand for Thanksgiving, or if pandemic anxieties will keep travelers at home.

Whether that surge materializes also depends on perception of the pandemic itself at the time. People have largely avoided flying due to onerous quarantine requirements set by some states, as well as anxiety over catching the virus on a plane, in an airport, or during transit — even though the risk of transmission on the plane itself appears to be fairly low.

The good news for airlines is that they have adapted quickly to the new pandemic reality. Plans which previously needed to be cemented weeks to months in advance — like staffing logistics and equipment allocation — can now be adjusted fairly last-minute. Carriers have learned how to build remarkable flexibility into their operations.

"We've been adjusting flight schedules closer in, as well, zero to 10 days from departure," Gupta said, "by looking at customer load factors and switching to larger aircraft as needed."

Even as United prepares to furlough up to 12,000 workers on October 1 and keeps some of its fleet in storage, it will keep extra crews and airplanes on reserve in case of unexpected last-minute demand.

"We're able to add flights to our schedule to accommodate additional customer demand," Gupta said. "In fact, we have been keeping additional aircraft in our schedule on standby for exactly that purpose."

The extra flights can be added in the same zero to 10 day range, he added.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A flight attendant was jailed in the UK for dealing drugs after she lost her job due to the coronavirus pandemic

London Luton Airport
"One of the terrible consequences of her offending is she will never work as a flight attendant again," Alexandra Dobre's lawyer said.
  • A former flight attendant in the UK was sentenced to prison for dealing drugs, the Stoke Sentinel reported.
  • The flight attendant, who was laid off during the coronavirus pandemic, was short on cash when a romantic partner recruited her to act as a courier.
  • Police found 81 baggies of cocaine at her home.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A former flight attendant in the United Kingdom was sentenced to 28 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges that she dealt cocaine.

Alexandra Dobre moved to the UK from Romania three years ago to work as a flight attendant, the Stoke Sentinel reported. She was based at London's Luton airport, but it was not clear which airline she worked for. Budget carrier easyJet is headquartered at Luton, but several other budget and leisure carriers fly out of the airport.

Dobre was laid off from her airline due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Mirror reported. She relocated to Stoke-on-Trent, where she met a man on a dating app. Short on cash, she agreed to act as a courier for the man, dropping off packages containing cocaine.

She was stopped by police on August 7, the Sentinel reported, and her home was searched. Police found 81 baggies of cocaine in a bedside table, in addition to six sealed bags. The 19.4 grams were worth as much as £2,610, or about $3,350.

"She lost her job in spring this year and lost her accommodation as a result of that. She was at a loose end over what to do next," Dobre's lawyer said, according to the Sentinel. "She was plainly acting under direction. One of the terrible consequences of her offending is she will never work as a flight attendant again. It's something she loved."

"She is not by nature criminally-minded. She's from a good family in Romania," Cliff added. "She knows her family will be absolutely mortified that she has found herself involved in something of this nature."

Read the original article on Business Insider

United Airlines avoids furloughing 3,900 pilots, but 12,000 others will lose their jobs unless Congress extends the CARES Act

United Airlines Pilots
Airlines have been hesitant to furlough pilots, who would fall behind on expensive and lengthy ongoing training requirements — and would be hard to recertify if and when demand does bounce back.
  • United Airlines will avoid furloughs for nearly 3,000 pilots, the airline said Monday.
  • The pilots' union and the airline agreed to a work-sharing measure to keep more pilots on active duty even as demand remains low during the pandemic.
  • The airline still plans to furlough 12,000 other workers when CARES Act funding requirements expire on October 1, unless an extension is passed before then.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Nearly 3,000 United pilots who were slated to be furloughed later this week will keep their jobs, thanks to a new deal between the airline and the pilots' union. The mitigation agreement, announced by the Airline Pilots Association and United on Monday, also avoids the furloughs of another 1,050 pilots that were slated for next year. 

However, United will still furlough roughly 12,000 workers on October 1, a senior executive said during a press briefing — unless Congress extends the provisions of the CARES Act that gave the airline industry $25 billion to help with payroll, provided they keep all employees on staff through September. 

The 12,000 figure is down from a total of 16,000 furloughs the airline had previously announced, and from a total of 36,000 workers who received WARN notices this summer. The reduction has resulted from workers taking buyouts or agreeing to unpaid leaves or cuts in work hours, rather than an improving business environment, the executive said.

At United, the pilot agreement will involve work sharing, with active pilots accepting reduced duty hours — and, in effect, monthly pay — in order to spread the remaining work among all members. As part of the agreement, the airline will also offer a new round of early retirement options for pilots older than 50 with at least 10 years of experience.

If the PSP is extended before the October 1 deadline, the pilot deal's implementation will be postponed, the United executive said.

"We've worked for months on creative solutions to mitigate massive pilot layoffs," said Captain Todd Insler, who leads the United union at the Air Line Pilots Association. "With this agreement now solidified, we will turn our focus back to Congress to secure a much-needed CARES Act extension to keep our industry solvent until we recover from this pandemic."

The meager recovery in travel demand over the summer has made many furloughs unavoidable, United and other airlines have said. But airlines have been especially hesitant to drop pilots, who would fall behind on expensive and lengthy ongoing training requirements — and would be hard to recertify if and when demand does bounce back.

Although United CEO Scott Kirby has said he does not expect a full recovery until a vaccine becomes available, the airline has said it wants to remain able to take advantage of any unexpected or marginal recovery before then.

"While we still face a difficult path to recovery, your support of this creative and unique agreement puts us in an unparalleled position of strength when demand recovers," Brian Quigley, the airline's senior vice president of flight operations, said in a memo to pilots on Monday. "In addition to avoiding furloughs, this agreement greatly enhances our ability to bounce back – so we can welcome more passengers and return to the 2019 levels of seat and fleet advancement more quickly."

Airline executives and labor unions have campaigned for an extension of the CARES Act's Payroll Support Program as a way to further postpone furloughs. Despite bipartisan support in Congress and from President Donald Trump, an extension, either on its own or as part of a larger stimulus package, has failed to materialize as the clock counts down to October 1.

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The FAA’s chief will fly the Boeing 737 Max himself, as his agency moves closer to approving the plane’s return to passenger service

Steve Dickson, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, speaks at the UK Aviation Club about the Boeing 737 MAX, in London, Britain, February 6, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
"I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until I fly it myself and am satisfied that I would put my own family on it without a second thought," FAA chief Steve Dickson said in November 2019.

The chief of the Federal Aviation Administration plans to pilot a Boeing 737 Max, a major symbolic step before the agency clears the plane to fly passengers again.

Administrator Steve Dickson will take the controls of the plane to test Boeing's fixes on September 30, the FAA said in a notification to several Congressional committees. Dickson, a former pilot and executive at Delta Air Lines, flew several plane types, including an older version of the 737, before joining the FAA.

Dickson has previously said that the agency would not lift its order grounding the plane until he flew the plane personally.

"I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until I fly it myself and am satisfied that I would put my own family on it without a second thought," he said in November 2019.

The test flight will take place at Boeing's facilities in Seattle, Washington. Dickson will first undergo new training which Boeing and the FAA have proposed for Max pilots.

The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March, 2019, after the second of two fatal crashes that killed a combined 346 people.

A new automated flight control system on the Max, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), was quickly found to be a primary culprit behind the crashes.

MCAS was designed to compensate for the 737 Max having larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane's nose to tip upward, potentially leading to a stall — MCAS could automatically point the nose down to neutralize the problem.

However, the system could be activated by a faulty reading from a single angle-of-attack sensor, without any redundancies or backups. In both crashes, the sensors are thought to have failed, sending erroneous data to the flight computer and, without a redundant check in place, triggering the automated system.

Although the grounding was initially expected to last a few weeks, Boeing and the FAA found additional safety hazards, eventually requiring Boeing to redesign the jet's entire flight computer rather than just the MCAS software.

Boeing previously said it expected the jet to return to service in the second half of this year. Although airlines have eagerly awaited the jet's return, the collapse of travel demand due to the coronavirus pandemic has dulled the need for the added capacity.

While a scathing report from House Democrats on the Transportation committee condemned Boeing and FAA missteps that led to the crashes in the first place, the plane has undergone virtually unprecedented scrutiny since it was grounded, and is nearing the final steps before it can be cleared to fly again.

Based on the remaining steps and Dickson's planned test flight, the FAA could lift the grounding order as soon as early October.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The FAA’s chief will fly the Boeing 737 Max himself, as his agency moves closer to approving the plane’s return to passenger service

Steve Dickson, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, speaks at the UK Aviation Club about the Boeing 737 MAX, in London, Britain, February 6, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
"I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until I fly it myself and am satisfied that I would put my own family on it without a second thought," FAA chief Steve Dickson said in November 2019.

The chief of the Federal Aviation Administration plans to pilot a Boeing 737 Max, a major symbolic step before the agency clears the plane to fly passengers again.

Administrator Steve Dickson will take the controls of the plane to test Boeing's fixes on September 30, the FAA said in a notification to several Congressional committees. Dickson, a former pilot and executive at Delta Air Lines, flew several plane types, including an older version of the 737, before joining the FAA.

Dickson has previously said that the agency would not lift its order grounding the plane until he flew the plane personally.

"I am not going to sign off on this aircraft until I fly it myself and am satisfied that I would put my own family on it without a second thought," he said in November 2019.

The test flight will take place at Boeing's facilities in Seattle, Washington. Dickson will first undergo new training which Boeing and the FAA have proposed for Max pilots.

The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March, 2019, after the second of two fatal crashes that killed a combined 346 people.

A new automated flight control system on the Max, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), was quickly found to be a primary culprit behind the crashes.

MCAS was designed to compensate for the 737 Max having larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane's nose to tip upward, potentially leading to a stall — MCAS could automatically point the nose down to neutralize the problem.

However, the system could be activated by a faulty reading from a single angle-of-attack sensor, without any redundancies or backups. In both crashes, the sensors are thought to have failed, sending erroneous data to the flight computer and, without a redundant check in place, triggering the automated system.

Although the grounding was initially expected to last a few weeks, Boeing and the FAA found additional safety hazards, eventually requiring Boeing to redesign the jet's entire flight computer rather than just the MCAS software.

Boeing previously said it expected the jet to return to service in the second half of this year. Although airlines have eagerly awaited the jet's return, the collapse of travel demand due to the coronavirus pandemic has dulled the need for the added capacity.

While a scathing report from House Democrats on the Transportation committee condemned Boeing and FAA missteps that led to the crashes in the first place, the plane has undergone virtually unprecedented scrutiny since it was grounded, and is nearing the final steps before it can be cleared to fly again.

Based on the remaining steps and Dickson's planned test flight, the FAA could lift the grounding order as soon as early October.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Southwest is offering its coveted companion pass, which gives you buy-one-get-one-free tickets, if you book a flight today

FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2019, file photo Southwest pilots prepare for a flight at Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Fla. Southwest Airlines Co. reports financial results Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)
Customers who book a flight by the end of September 24 and fly by November 15 will get a free companion pass, good for buy-one-get-one-free tickets between January 6 and February 28.
  • Southwest Airlines is offering a companion pass to passengers who book a flight by Thursday, September 24 and fly by November 15.
  • The companion pass, which is good from January 6 to February 28, 2021, lets travelers bring a guest for free, aside from $5.60 in taxes.
  • The promotion is part of Southwest's effort to bring passengers back onto planes during the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Southwest Airlines is offering a rare incentive to get people back onto planes: its coveted companion pass.

Customers who book a flight by the end of September 24 and fly by November 15 will get a free companion pass, good for buy-one-get-one-free tickets between January 6 and February 28. Your flying buddy just needs to be on the same flight as you, and to pay $5.60 in tax.

Normally, scoring a companion pass requires racking up 125,000 qualifying points or taking 100 flights. Southwest also offered a companion pass in 2019 as a sign-up bonus for some of its co-branded credit cards.

This new offer comes as Southwest, like other airlines, struggles to attract passengers during the coronavirus pandemic. Travel demand at US airlines is down about 70% compared to this time last year.

However, even as business demand remains severely depressed, some passengers have been getting back into the air in recent months, mostly for vacation or to visit family and friends. So Southwest's deal could present a good opportunity for travelers: Since most of January and February are included, both the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day long weekends would be covered, along with Valentine's Day.

Just remember that you need to book by the end of Thursday, September 24 — that would be today — and travel by November 15 in order to get the deal.

You can find the full terms of the offer at Southwest's website.

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United is testing Hawaii-bound passengers for COVID-19 to help them avoid quarantine — a move that could revive travel demand across the board

SFO United Airport coronavirus test
United's COVID-19 testing program will offer two options for passengers headed for Hawaii, neither of them cheap.
  • United Airlines will offer coronavirus tests at San Francisco International Airport to help passengers travel to Hawaii without having to quarantine.
  • United said the testing program is a pilot, and suggested it could be expanded for other airports and destinations.
  • Experts do not expect travel demand to fully recover until a vaccine is available and widely distributed, but have said that rapid testing offers a way to make travel safer and more practical in the interim.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

United is introducing a new airport coronavirus testing procedure make flying to Hawaii more appealing, with the hope that this kind of program could salvage the already grim 2021 travel season.

Starting October 15, the airline will offer passengers flying from San Francisco to the archipelago state the chance to take a COVID-19 test before takeoff, so those with negative results don't have to quarantine when they touch down on the sand.  

Hawaii has been requiring all out-of-state travelers to quarantine for 14 days, but on October 15 will begin waiving that mandate for anyone who tests negative for the virus, no more than 72 hours before their flight arrives. 

United's program will offer two options for passengers headed for Hawaii, neither of them cheap.

Tests at the airport will be administered by GoHealth Urgent Care, which has been testing United's international flight crews at San Francisco since July. For $250, the company will test Hawaii-bound passengers each day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., whose results are available within about 15 minutes. Passengers can make an appointment online to avoid having to wait on a line at the airport. (That price may drop as capacity increases. It was not clear whether health insurance will cover it.)

Passengers can also opt for an $80 (plus shipping) at-home, mail-in test from a company called Color. United will email passengers 10 days before their flight with a link to purchase a testing kit. Passengers can collect their own samples 72 hours before traveling, and return the test via overnight mail or to a drop box at the airport.

Results from Color are available within 24 to 48 hours, so if a passenger returns their sample at the airport, there's a chance they will have to quarantine in Hawaii for a day or two until their results become available.

Depending on how the program goes, United could expand its reach, saying this kind of testing "could make it easier for [travelers] to manage quarantine requirements and entry conditions of popular destinations around the world."

Borders around the world remain largely closed or restricted as countries try to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Travel demand for US airlines is down 70% compared to the same time last year, and most of the current demand is for domestic flights.

Experts largely believe that mass testing is the only effective way to prompt travel to return until there is a widely distributed vaccine. However, limited testing capacity and long waits for results have largely hindered widespread use for a travel context within the US.

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Delta has now banned some 350 passengers for refusing to wear masks during flights — and it’s adding 100 people a month to its no-fly list

Delta Flight Attendant Mask Coronavirus COVID-19
"Some of the instances I've heard where people have come off the plane because they wouldn't wear the mask, the customers were the ones pointing out," Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. "It wasn't our people having to do the heavy lifting."
  • Delta Air Lines has banned about 350 passengers for refusing to wear masks during flights, CEO Ed Bastian said on Tuesday.
  • That number was up from 240 in late-August. The airline recently strengthened its rules recently to combat phony medical exemptions.
  • A review from Harvard recently found that the universal use of face masks on flights substantially reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission on flights.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Delta Air Lines has now banned about 350 passengers for refusing to wear masks on board planes, CEO Ed Bastian said on Tuesday.

"For political reasons, or other reasons, they insisted on not wearing a mask after being asked multiple times to put it back on," Bastian said, speaking at the Skift Global Forum. "So they're not going to fly Delta. They're not going to have the privilege."

Delta and other US airlines began requiring passengers and crewmembers to wear masks on flights in May. However, flight crews initially had little ability or direction on enforcing the requirements. In June, most US airlines, including Delta, said they would begin banning passengers who refused to cooperate.

"While that was a little choppy in getting going, because you don't want your flight attendants to turn into a police, having to monitor compliance, customers appreciate it," Bastian said.

Many of the bans were issued after other passengers complained about maskless fliers, Bastian said.

"Some of the instances I've heard where people have come off the plane because they wouldn't wear the mask, the customers were the ones pointing out," he said. "It wasn't our people having to do the heavy lifting."

Delta has added more than 100 passengers to its no-fly list over the last month alone. In late-August, Bastian said that 240 passengers had been banned. That number was up from 100 on July 22.

Among those banned in recent weeks was Robert O'Neill, the former Navy SEAL known for his part in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

O'Neill was on board a flight on Wednesday, August 19, when he tweeted a selfie with the caption "I'm not a p----." Unlike a fellow passenger in a US Marine Corps hat and a flight attendant visible in the photo, O'Neill was not wearing a mask. The airline banned O'Neill the following day.

Delta recently strengthened its mask policy, requiring anyone claiming a medical exemption to consult with an airline-contracted telehealth medical professional before boarding.

"Any false claims of a disability or health condition to obtain an exemption from wearing a mask or face covering may result in the suspension of travel privileges on any Delta flight for the duration of the mask/face covering requirement," the airline said.

A review from Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health found that the proper use of face masks on airplanes, combined with other measures, substantially lowers the risk of the SARS-CoV-2 virus being transmitted during a flight.

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