In an email thanking the US government for bailing out the US airline industry, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz pledged some of its planes to deliver critical medical supplies and goods during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Right now, aircraft flying the United livery and insignia, flown by our aviation professionals, have been repurposed to deliver vital medical supplies and goods to some of the places that need it most,” Munoz announced in an email.
The major US airline CEO also announced that several of United’s idle widebody aircraft would be used as charter cargo flights to transfer goods critical to battling the coronavirus around the US and to “key international business locations,” primarily in Europe.
“With coronavirus (COVID-19) creating an increased need to keep the global supply chain moving, we are utilizing our network capabilities and personnel to get vital shipments, such as medical supplies, to areas that need them most,” a spokesperson from United confirmed to Business Insider.
United began dedicating some of its passenger planes to transport goods for commercial customers on March 19 — on the first two freight-only-flights from Houston, Texas, approximately 40% of the tonnage on both were medical supplies.
The flights are currently operating out of US international airports including, Newark International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and San Francisco International Airport. In addition to these US locations, the charter flights are also flying from key European cities including Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and London.
Munoz pledged that the airline would make at least 40 of these cargo trips per week, but a spokesperson for United told Business Insider that the company is expanding their cargo flights every week.
The news comes just after President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion economic relief package on Friday, which included a nearly $60 billion bailout based on requests made by the nation’s airlines, including United. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, granted $58 billion to be split amongst the companies on the condition that the airlines could not lay off or furlough employees through September.
In a statement the following day, Munoz wrote a heartfelt email thanking US officials for passing a “comprehensive relief act to ensure our airline” which he claimed would go to save the jobs of 100,000 United employees.
“I want to relay to you, in as deeply personal a way I can, the heartfelt appreciation of my 100,000 United team members and their families for this vital public assistance to keep America and United flying for you,” Munoz wrote in an email sent to Business Insider.
“And it allows us time to make decisions about the future of our airline to ensure that we can offer you the service you deserve and have come to expect as our customers,” Munoz added.
As the coronavirus swept the globe, countries have implemented strict lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus thrusting the airline industry into free fall— at least 55 global airlines have completely stopped flying scheduled flights due to closed borders, travel restrictions, airspace closures, and plummeting travel demands.
On Friday, Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package that allotted $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines, and an additional $4 billion for cargo air carriers.
A separate $17 billion in loans is specified for companies “critical to maintaining national security.” Boeing is reported to be the intended recipient for a large portion of the amount.
The loans are conditional on job protection — airlines accepting aid will not be allowed to lay off or furlough workers until September 30, at which point the crisis could be over or winding down for air carriers…