Exclusive-U.S. Senate panel inviting airline CEOs to testify at Dec. 8 hearing


FILE PHOTO: An American Airlines Airbus A321-200 plane takes off from Los Angeles International airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

November 30, 2021

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The chair of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is inviting the chief executives of seven major U.S. airlines to testify at a Dec. 8 oversight hearing after she asked major carriers in July to explain worker shortages despite receiving billions in pandemic bailout, a committee official told Reuters.

Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat who chairs the panel, is inviting the CEOs of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines and Spirit Airlines to testify, the official added.

The airlines declined to comment or did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Reuters first reported plans for the hearing on Nov. 4 but it was not clear if Cantwell would ask the CEOs to appear.

Starting in March 2020, Congress approved three separate rounds of taxpayer funding totaling $54 billion to pay much of U.S. airlines’ payroll costs through Sept. 30 as a result of COVID-19.

Airlines were not allowed to issue involuntary layoffs or cut worker pay as part of government assistance.

Staffing shortages in recent months have prompted some airlines to cancel hundreds of flights at times even as they work to boost staffing.

Cantwell in July asked several airlines detailed questions about “workforce shortages, flight cancellations, and delays, creating havoc and frustrating consumers as more Americans resume travel.”

Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson said earlier this month that the difficulties with some airline operations are “due more to changes in consumer behavior” like a jump in leisure travel.

“They probably don’t have as much buffer in their schedule as they had previously,” he added.

(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Nick Zieminski)

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