JetBlue Restricts Flights to Necessary Ones

JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU) told employees Sunday that it plans to cancel hundreds of flights and operate less than half of its normal schedule this week, as it shrinks its operation to match diminished demand: passengers who “are flying because they must.”

U.S. airlines have been slashing their schedules as the coronavirus, and efforts to contain it, continue to sap travel demand.

Passenger and cargo carriers are seeking some $58 billion in government aid, half of it in cash grants and the other in loans. A vote on a massive stimulus bill aimed at combating the impact of the virus on the U.S. economy, which included only loans for airlines, failed in a procedural vote late Sunday.

The new reductions in JetBlue’s schedule come less than a week after it announced it would cut its flying by at least 40% in April and May as cancellations outpace bookings. U.S. airlines are struggling to manage the plunge in demand, halting hiring, parking thousands of jets and asking employees to take unpaid time off, among other measures.

The clip of cancellations and weak demand is forcing New York-based JetBlue to cancel non-essential flights on a rolling basis, president and COO Joanna Geraghty told employees Sunday in a note. She said reports about social distancing have prompted the question “should we stop flying?” but she said that the airline will focus on the current demand.

JBLU shares descended 37 cents, or 5.2% to $6.78.