By Stella Lorence
Boston University News Service
Jetblue Airways shuttled the most passengers in Massachusetts during the first three quarters of 2020, followed by Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines, according to federal data.
The number of domestic commercial flights nationally plummeted between March and April, down from just under 190,000 during the week of March 8 to 55,000 at the lowest point, seven weeks later.
All of the top-performing airlines from last year – including JetBlue, Delta, Southwest, American Airlines and United Airlines – averaged fewer than five passengers and fewer than 3,500 miles for the first three quarters of 2020, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The data was collected from a 10% sample of airline tickets from participating airlines.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, provided up to $25 billion of economic aid to passenger airlines. The funds are “exclusively to be used” for employee salaries and benefits, meant to stave off sweeping layoffs.
American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines all signed on to receive aid on April 20, with JetBlue signing on three days later. American Airlines has the highest anticipated payroll support with roughly $6 billion, according to data from the Treasury Department. Delta comes in second with $5.6 billion. Ninety-nine percent of the $25 billion was committed to passenger airlines by Oct. 5, 2020, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.
The program providing aid to airlines was extended in December, but is set to expire at the end of next month.
Data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show a steady increase in the overall number of U.S. Domestic commercial flights shortly after the top airlines signed onto the CARES Act aid, though the number of flights per week has remained roughly 80,000 short of last year’s numbers since then.
In Massachusetts, flights from Nantucket Memorial Airport and Logan International Airport decreased by 65% between the first and third quarters of last year, data shows.
There was an 88% decrease in total passengers in Massachusetts between quarter one and quarter two, which rebounded to a 138% increase in quarter three, data analysis shows. The increase in quarter three, which spans from July to September, coincides with a dip in coronavirus cases in the U.S.