Airlines

US rejects most Spirit, JetBlue requests to halt additional flights

Key Points
  • The U.S. Transportation Department said on Thursday it had rejected most requests by JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines to halt additional flights.
  • Airlines that receive a portion of $25 billion in grants and loans to combat coronavirus must maintain minimum service levels outlined by the government.
  • The department is reviewing requests from another eight airlines.
JetBlue planes at a gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.S. Transportation Department said on Thursday it had rejected most requests by Jetblue Airways and Spirit Airlines to halt additional flights in the wake of the pandemic that has sent passenger traffic down by 95%.

The department last week issued final rules setting minimum flights requirements for airlines receiving government assistance allowing airlines to dramatically cut and consolidate but not eliminate service.

Airlines can petition to temporarily eliminate service to airports. The department is reviewing requests from another eight airlines.

The department said it would allow the airlines to stop flying to Puerto Rico, but would require JetBlue to keep flying to nine destinations, including Albuquerque, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; Bozeman, Montana; Reno-Tahoe, Nevada; Dallas/Fort Worth; Sacramento, California; Houston; and Minneapolis.

Spirit must resume flights to a total of about two dozen locations, including Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; Indianapolis; and the San Francisco area within a week of getting government assistance.

Spirit and JetBlue did not immediately comment.

This week the U.S. Treasury had reached agreements in principle with 10 major airlines as it moves to award $25 billion in cash grants to help carriers with payroll costs. The carriers could get the funds as early as this week and will need to repay 30% in a low-interest loan over 10 years and grant the government warrants equal to 10% of the loan.

JetBlue said this week it expected to receive $935 million in payroll assistance. Spirit said it has not yet reached agreement with Treasury on payroll assistance but said Tuesday it expected to agree on terms soon.

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