CEOs of US, Southwest, and United States to Testify Before US Senate Panel


American Airlines planes taxi the tarmac as the New York skyline is seen in the background from JFK International Airport in New York, United States, November 8, 2021. REUTERS / Eduardo Munoz / File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (Reuters) – The CEOs of American Airlines (AAL.O), United Airlines and Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) will testify on Dec. 15 in a watch hearing before the Senate Trade Committee on the $ 54 billion impact in government payroll support COVID-19 for U.S. airlines.

The hearing will examine “the effect on the workforce of the airline industry and the effect of airline operational performance on US consumers,” according to a statement from the committee.

U.S. CEO Doug Parker and Southwest Gary Kelly, both of whom are stepping down in early 2022, will testify, as will United CEO Scott Kirby.

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Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) Chief Operating Officer John Laughter will also testify, as will Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

Lawmakers should ask executives how carriers have used federal pandemic aid, staff issues and other issues.

U.S. airlines and carriers around the world have been hit hard by cuts in business and tourist travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in March 2020, Congress approved three rounds of taxpayer bailouts totaling $ 54 billion to cover a large chunk of salary costs for U.S. airlines until September 30 of this year due to the pandemic.

Nelson said in October that the airline industry “has created a COVID-19 relief plan that no other industry has had.”

Lawmakers want to know whether voluntary employee buyouts offered by airlines, despite payroll assistance, have caused operational problems at some carriers that have resulted in hundreds of flights being canceled in recent months.

Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation Committee have separately asked industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A) to respond to questions about the government wage assistance the carriers have received.

A4A said in a response letter on Tuesday that the aid program “has been a resounding success (…) Without it, the group added,” US airlines would have been forced to carry out massive layoffs, dramatically reduce service and cancel fleet orders.

(This story corrects the title to show the CEO of Southwest, not the CEO of Delta among those testifying.)

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Reporting by David Shepardson; edited by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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