Airline passengers at record low; Walmart hiring 150,000
Here are developments Friday related to the coronavirus outbreak, efforts by governments to stabilize their economies, companies that must navigate through an altered landscape, and the millions of people affected. GROUNDED: The lowest number of passengers ever recorded at U.S. airports is being reported by the Transportation Security Administration. Nearly 624,000 people passed through its outbound checkpoints on Thursday, the TSA said. That compares with 2.4 million on the same day a year earlier. It’s the lowest number of outbound passengers ever recorded by an agency created in November 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The CEO and labor leaders at American Airlines wrote to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and congressional leaders Friday imploring them to quickly approve aid for airlines or else workers will lose their jobs. The company says it will accept “appropriate conditions” on government aid.
Frankfurt airport operator Fraport AG has put 18,000 of its 22,000 employees on shortened schedules, saying that “traffic has come almost to a halt.” Wages will be partly covered by the German government’s shortwork policy. The company said it would add payments to ensure at least 75% of pay. Fraport also took its northwest landing runway out of service. It will instead be used to park unused airplanes.
An air traffic control supervisor in Indianapolis tested positive, the Federal Aviation Administration reported. Some work areas were closed Thursday night, but the center remained open Friday while crews cleaned work areas. It’s the third FAA facility affected by COVID-19. Earlier this week, airport towers in Chicago and Las Vegas closed temporarily, leading to hundreds of canceled and delayed flights.
American Airlines is initiating cargo-only flights between the US and Europe. FedEx and UPS were expecting to absorb a greater share of cargo typically carried by commercial airlines, which have severely cut capacity.
Air Canada is laying off more than 5,000 flight attendants, about 60% of that staff, according to a union official, as the country’s largest airline grounds its planes. Air Canada says the layoffs are temporary. The Montreal company said earlier this week that it will suspend the majority of its international and U.S. flights by the end of the month.
HELP NEEDED: With outbreak-related layoffs expected to surge, at least two major retailers are hiring in a big way. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, said late Thursday that it plans to hire 150,000 U.S. hourly workers for its stores and distribution centers through the end of May as online orders surge with households stocking up. The jobs are temporary, but many will become permanent, said spokesman Dan Bartlett. He said that the company is reaching out to industry groups in the restaurant and hospitality industry, both of which are getting slammed by lockdowns and travel bans. Amazon this week said it would hire 100,000 people across the U.S. to keep up with a crush of orders hires.
Target Corp. said Friday it will give a $2 an hour wage increase to its 300,000-plus workers who have been scrambling to help customers. The pay bump will be effective at least through May 2. It’s also begun offering workers who are pregnant, 65 years old or older, or who have underlying health risks, access to paid leave for up to 30 days. Target joins Amazon and Walmart which are offering extra incentives like cash bonuses or a temporary wage bump as they try to manage the crush of customers while simultaneously looking to keep their workers happy.
FIREWALL: Companies across almost every sector are raising cash to ride out the outbreak.
Kohl’s has fully drawn its $1 billion unsecured credit facility. The department store chain, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, is slashing inventory and expenses. Kohl’s Corp. has closed its 1,100 stores for at least the rest of the month. It and many other major chains are temporarily closing stores to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
AT&T canceled a $4 billion accelerated stock buyback program scheduled for the second quarter. The company said in a regulatory filing that it’s also canceling any other stock repurchases so it can have financial flexibility and continue to invest in its business. AT&T said it’s currently unable to estimate the impact the virus will have on its financial and operational results.
Earlier this week, after technicians tested positive for the coronavirus, airport towers in Chicago and Las Vegas closed temporarily, leading to canceled and delayed flights.