Republican House Oversight Committee members, in a letter sent Wednesday, pressed the airline industry to explain the recent surge in flight cancellations throughout the country.
The letter asked Airlines for America, the industry trade group, to explain why the airlines are struggling to keep up with travel demands and to detail its plans to recover from the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, they ask the group to explain how it spent the billions in aid from taxpayer dollars, meant to keep employees on the payroll.
“Even as demand for flights exceeds pre-pandemic levels, we continue to be concerned about the impact of labor shortages on the airline industry and the economy in general,” the group of Republicans wrote.
“Also of concern is the fact that the airline industry and its supporting businesses received billions in Payroll Support Program funds from the Treasury Department during the unprecedented COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] pandemic,” they added.
The group noted the generous unemployment benefits and other coronavirus-related issues are “weighing down” the economy.
“Many workers in fact are incentivized to stay at home and receive unemployment compensation instead of rejoining the workforce, as their benefits with COVID-19 enhancements are substantially higher than normal,” they explained.
The lawmakers conceded the benefits made sense to implement during the pandemic. However, they assert the “reopening of the economy made possible by safe and effective vaccines cannot happen if we incentivize the labor force to stay at home.”
They ask Airlines for America to explain the “airline industry’s plans to recover from the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” in addition to briefing the Republicans on “how the airline industry utilized taxpayer funds during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as any obstacles standing in the way to achieving normalcy.”
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), the letter’s lead signatory, said in a statement, “As our society continues to rebound, it is critical we ensure this industry and the executives at major airlines are provided the necessary resources to make a robust comeback.”
The Hill reported thatexperts in the industry say there are not enough trained pilots and other airport personnel to accommodate the influx of customers. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said airport security screened 1.9 million people on Wednesday.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Congress gave the industry $54 billion to help the airlines survive and keep their staff intact.
Some airlines asked their pilots to take early retirements or take voluntary furloughs. Some laid off employees despite accepting government aid.