DOT makes rules for airline aid more flexible

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DOT makes rules for airline aid more flexible
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Responding to airlines’ objections, the Department of Transportation eased service requirements for airlines that accept financial assistance from the federal government.

Originally, the Cares Act required airlines receiving a federal grant or loan to continue serving until Sept. 30 domestic destinations they had been serving on March 1.

The rigidity of the proposal drew criticism from several carriers, both small and large. Airlines noted in regulatory filings that they routinely operate seasonal service to many destinations, making the requirement impractical. 

In its final order on April 7, the DOT gave airlines more flexibility. Airlines getting aid will have a choice of continuing to fly to all domestic points they served during the last week of February or flying to all domestic points they served during the first week of August 2019. 

The DOT also made it easier for smaller carriers to qualify for federal aid, imposing less stringent minimum-service requirements than the Big 4.

American, Delta, Southwest and United will be required to serve any domestic destination that they had been serving more than 25 times per week with at least five flights per week. Those carriers also must schedule at least three weekly flights to markets they had been serving between five and 25 times per week. And they must schedule at least one weekly flight to destinations they had been serving fewer than five times per week. 

The remainder of U.S. airlines will have to maintain at least thrice-weekly service to domestic destinations they had been serving at least five times per week. They also must schedule at least one weekly flight to markets they had been serving fewer than five times per week.  

The smaller carriers won’t be burdened with the Big 4’s requirement for destinations served more than 25 times per week. 

Under the Cares Act, U.S. passenger airlines are to receive up to $25 billion in federal payroll grants and are eligible -- along with large travel agencies and aircraft maintenance businesses -- for up to $25 billion in federal loans.

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