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Senator Mike Lee: airlines shouldn’t have to fly empty planes

WASHINGTON, DC - File photo. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) wants the federal government to relax some rules so airlines are not forced to fly empty planes in the United States. 

The Department of Transportation has required the airlines to keep the same scheduled flights that were in place prior to March 1, 2020 in order to get part of their bailout. It’s a rule the airlines have long been fighting in private, as social media posts of nearly empty flights fuels bad press for the industry. 

Senator Lee thinks it’s also costing taxpayers billions more than needed. 

“There needs to be some flexibility on the part of the airlines because if there is not, we’re going to burn through that money much more quickly, and we’re going to make air travel that much less affordable,” Lee said. 

He also pointed to the drop in passengers. 

“There ought not be artificial constraints by which we require an airline to continue operating air service, for which there is no demand,” Lee said. 

There has been a roughly 96% drop in the number of airline passengers because of COVID-19. 

Nicholas Calio, the president and CEO of Airlines for America, a major airline lobbying group, agreed with Senator Lee. 

“It harms the consumer because the recovery will be longer. The chance of keeping the most employees on board will be undermined, and if you want to look at it from an environmental point of view, we shouldn’t be flying airplanes that are empty,” Calio said.