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Airline pilot: COVID-19 a crisis for the industry

KGUN9 speaks exclusively to pilot about impact
Posted: 10:12 PM, Mar 26, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-27 01:12:39-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Airlines have canceled thousands of flights nationwide as COVID-19 continues to spread.

A pilot tells KGUN 9 big changes are just around the corner.

That pilot asked us not to reveal his name or what airline he works for.

He's heard from other people in his industry that passenger flights in the United States could shut down completely.

The coronavirus is leading to a deep drop in travel demand as more people stay inside.

The pilot said his colleagues are already seeing significant cuts to their schedules.

"So April, May all the airlines commercial-wise will be pretty much cut anywhere from 50% to 70%. Domestic they will be shut down." he said.

That pilot just finished a flight that operated with only three people on board. Two of them were other, off-duty pilots on their way to another assignment.

"Why are we flying" he said." Because the flight going out -- for example my flight tomorrow, I have over 100 and some people. Now I'm assuming most of them are tourists. "

"We're bringing people back and that'll start dying out. It already is," he said.

He says the planes aren't just carrying travelling passengers.

"We have firefighters, policemen, government officials on some of the flights," the pilot said. "We are also carrying cargo, medical supplies and stuff."

But he said that won't be enough to keep planes in the air.

"For the airlines it's really go to be changing in the next two weeks."

The pilot said airlines aren't yet announcing how many employees will be furloughed, because they're offering temporary leaves, reduced flying schedules, and early retirement.