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U.S. Airlines Pondering 9/11-Like Ground Stop

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The skies above are about to get a whole lot quieter, if U.S. commercial airlines and the government do what they’re currently contemplating.

Major U.S. airlines are internally pondering a voluntary shutdown of all passenger flights across the United States as government agencies also consider instituting such an order amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and what is rapidly becoming a nationwide lockdown.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the major U.S. airlines, including American Airlines  (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group Inc. Report, Delta Air Lines  (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines Inc. Report and United Airlines  (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings Inc. Report, are all drafting internal plans for the possibility – not only as a way to save money but also as a way to help stop the virus’s spread.

No final decisions have been made by the carriers or the White House, industry and federal officials told the Journal. Other publicly traded carriers include Alaska Air  (ALK) - Get Alaska Air Group Inc. Report, JetBlue  (JBLU) - Get JetBlue Airways Corporation Report, Southwest  (LUV) - Get Southwest Airlines Company Report and Spirit Airlines  (SAVE) - Get Spirit Airlines Inc. Report.

However, with pandemic’s rapid spread and mandatory stay-at-home orders now covering more than a third of the U.S. population, airline executives, pilot-union leaders and federal transportation officials say they increasingly view as inevitable further sharp reductions from already-decimated schedules in passenger flights, the Journal reported.

On Monday, thousands of flights were canceled, in some cases because planes weren’t full enough to justify the trip, with passengers numbering in the single digits, the Journal said, citing one flight between New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Washington DC that had just three passengers.

The last time airlines grounded all flights domestically was in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, when skies went quiet for four days.

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