Air­line pas­sen­gers at record low; Wal­mart hir­ing 150,000

The Kansas City Star - - Business -

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.

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST AP

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.

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