Heartland airport officials react to furloughs at American, United Airlines

Updated: Oct. 1, 2020 at 6:16 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - The pandemic made airlines like American and United need payroll aid to help pay their workers.

“Well, ever since COVID-19 hit, it has a devastating impact on the airline industry, traveling industry as a whole," said Executive Director Dennis Rouleau at Barkley Regional Airport in Kentucky.

That’s why American and United airlines are asking the government for additional relief funds.

“The Payroll Protection Plan ended at the last of the month, which was yesterday, and so as of now there is no further protection plan for October or going forward,” he said.

Now, American Airlines will lay off 32,000 and United Airlines has already laid off 13,000 employees. Right now, the airline industry is asking Congress for billions more in a relief package.

“It’s a significant hit to the economy with many employees that are out,” he said.

While this could have a potential impact on the bigger airports right away, Rouleau and Cape Girardeau Airport manager Katrina Amos said they won’t see much of it.

“I don’t think we’re going to be impacted at all," she said. “It’s a different flight group. The flight group that serves us, they are SkyWest that work for United Airlines.”

“It won’t have any effect on the Cape airport at all," she said. “Our service, while we do business as United Airlines, we’re operated by SkyWest. With that being said, they’re all SkyWest employees.”

Over in southern Illinois at the Veterans Airport in Marion, Director Doug Kimmel said this could potentially cause problems for travelers going to larger airports.

“For passengers that are connecting from here on Cape Air to American or United product, because of the issues that the majors are having to deal with the pandemic, that’s going to affect people’s ability to get the frequent flights that they’re used to or airfare that they’re used to,” he said.

Back in Kentucky, Rouleau said he hates to see employees lose their jobs, and he’s staying optimistic it won’t last long.

“Although they may have been laid off today, I think it’s going to be short-lived,” he said.

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