Airports, like airlines, need federal help to survive COVID-19, RDU says

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Thursday, October 1, 2020
RDU feels brunt of furloughs, layoffs across airline industry
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Just as air travel was starting to pick up at RDU, more than 40,000 airline employees were furloughed or laid off across the country.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- With more layoffs and furloughs at airline companies being announced, Raleigh Durham International Airport is hoping Congress steps up quickly.

United Airlines and American Airlines are the latest to announce purse tightening measures as the CARES Act expires.

Air travel across the country has taken a nosedive since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as infection rates have slowly decreased and states have started opening back up, air travel was starting to pick back up.

Then, at the end of September, airlines across the country announced 40,000 employees would be laid off.

"Past Oct. 1, my future feels like a black hole," former United Airlines Flight Attendant Annette Hala said.

At RDU, 738 American Airline employees lost their jobs. At Charlotte Douglas International Airport, approximately 14,000 were let go.

Airlines received a total of $25 billion from the federal government through the CARES Act. But with that program expiring, the industry said it needs $25 billion more.

"At Delta - we're looking at potential 2,000 furloughs at the pilot ranks if we don't get the grant from the government, or if we don't find a solution with the union," Stephanie Hawco with RDU Airport Authority said.

And it's not just the airlines in trouble, RDU is feeling the burn as well. It has already slashed its budget, which travelers will notice in the form of fewer flight options.

"RDU is operating on a survival budget of about half of what we were slated to spend this year," Hawco said. "We've postponed nearly $100 million in construction projects and times are very lean right now...We do have less service than we did in 2019-half the destination non-stops; we have about a third of departing flights than we did in 2019. "

So while airlines are demanding more funding, airports like RDU say they need it too.

"Congress is considering another aid package. We got some relief over the summer, but we're hoping they will remember airports and airlines in the coming months, because we expect this to be a very long and slow recovery," Hawco said.