JetBlue wants to pause operations at 16 large airports through September, saying that doing so would help the company stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, it must receive permission from the federal government before doing so.
On Wednesday, JetBlue filed a request for service exemption with the Department of Transportation, asking the department if it could suspend service to large airports, including Atlanta, Chicago and Denver.
According to the filing, JetBlue said dropping flights to major hub airports would help the company "preserve financial liquidity" as demand for air travel shrinks during the pandemic. The New York-based company added that dropping flights to the airports would help them minimize operational and safety risks related explicitly to the pandemic in the city.
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If it were to drop flights to those 16 hub cities, JetBlue says it would continue to pay all its crewmembers with benefits through the end of September.
USA Today and The Washington Post report that the CARES Act requires that any airline receiving any federal assistance funds must "provide minimum service levels" through September. Airlines must continue to regularly fly to cities it served in the past, unless the federal government grants the airline an exemption.
The 16 airports JetBlue is requesting to drop are Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle and Tampa.
Only of the airports — Orlando — are among the "focus cities" JetBlue lists on its website. The airline's other focus cities include New York, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, San Juan and Long Beach.
JetBlue's filing comes days after the airline announced it would begin requiring passengers to wear masks or face coverings in its boarding areas and on flights to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.