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Amid pandemic, a US airline will ‘most likely’ fold this year: Boeing CEO

“Traffic levels will not be back to 100%. They won’t even be back to 25%. Maybe by the end of the year we approach 50%. So there will definitely be adjustments that have to be made on the part of the airlines," Boeing CEO said.

By: Bloomberg | Published: May 12, 2020 9:05:05 am
Coronavirus, Coronavirus impact on airlines, Coronavirus impact on aviation, Coronavirus lockdown, boeing Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun was speaking during an interview to be aired Tuesday on NBC (Bloomberg)

Boeing Co.’s top executive sees a rocky road ahead for U.S. airlines, saying it’s probable that a major carrier will go out of business as the Covid-19 pandemic keeps passengers off planes.

The recovery is going to be slow, with air traffic languishing at depressed levels for months, Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun said in an interview to be aired Tuesday on NBC. Asked by ‘Today’ show host Savannah Guthrie if a major airline might have to fold, Calhoun replied, “Yes, most likely,” according to a preview of the interview provided by NBC.

“Something will happen when September comes around,” Calhoun added, referring to the month when the U.S. government’s payroll aid to the airline industry expires. “Traffic levels will not be back to 100%. They won’t even be back to 25%. Maybe by the end of the year we approach 50%. So there will definitely be adjustments that have to be made on the part of the airlines.”

Carriers worldwide are facing a dire collapse in demand for flights as governments restrict travel and consumers heed warnings to stay home. Boeing is shrinking its business as the company’s airline customers delay orders and rethink their fleets. Calhoun has predicted air travel won’t return to pre-virus growth levels until mid-decade, and the Chicago-based planemaker last month announced plans to pare 16,000 workers and slow production of its jetliners.

The CEO “was speaking to the general uncertainty in the sector, not about any one particular airline,” Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in response to the NBC interview.

The U.S. government’s payroll support for airlines expires at the end of September.

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