U.S. Airline stocks moved higher Thursday after industry leaders urged President Joe Biden to lift the pandemic-era mask mandate on planes and in airports, arguing the rules a ‘no longer aligned’ to the current post-Covid environment.
Airlines for America, a lobby group representing the biggest U.S. domestic and international carriers, wants the Biden Administration to drop predeparture test requirements, following similar decisions in the U.K. and Europe, and says the current mandate requiring masks on planes and in airports, noting high levels of public immunity to Covid variants, vaccine and therapeutics availability and flight cabin air quality.
The administration’s current mask mandate, which covers air travel, as well as other modes of public transportation, was extended last week until April 18.
“It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do,” the letter said. “The science clearly supports lifting the mask mandate, as demonstrated by the recently released CDC framework indicating that 99% of the U.S. population no longer need to wear masks indoors.”
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United Airlines (UAL) – Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report shares were marked 0.25% higher in pre-market trading at $41.53 each, while Delta Airlines (DAL) – Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report rose 0.65% to $36.45 each.
Southwest Airlines (LUV) – Get Southwest Airlines Co. Report shares were little-changed at $42.85 each while American Airlines (AAL) – Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report rose 0.62% to $16.31 each.
Earlier this month, most U.S. carriers said bookings and traffic has improved notably since the start of the year amid the easing of pandemic era restricts on business and travel and would likely offset a surge in jet fuel prices linked to the ongoing volatility in global crude prices and Russia’s war on Ukraine.
United noted, however, that overall capacity this year would still be down in the “high single digits” when compared to 2019 levels, citing the recent surge in jet fuel costs linked to the ongoing volatility in global crude markets, as well as aircraft delivery delays tied to Boeing’s (BA) – Get Boeing Company Report issues with its 787 Dreamliner.
American Airlines trimmed its revenue decline forecast to around 17% from 2019 levels, compared to its prior forecast of between 20% and 22%, as part of its presentation to the J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference in New York, while Southwest lowered its estimate for revenue declines from 2019 levels to around 8% to 10%. The group had previously forecast a fall of between 10% and 15%.
Delta Air Lines boosted its current quarter revenue forecast to be about 78% of pre-pandemic levels, up from its prior estimate of between 72% and 76%, adding that its fuel costs would average $2.80 per gallon in the first quarter, up from its January forecast of between $2.35 and $2.50.