The skies over America could grow all but silent for the first time since the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, according to a new report.
Monday report in The Wall Street Journal indicated that a grounding of all passenger flights could take place either voluntarily or through a government order and that airlines are now preparing for that possibility.
The report also noted that as the coronavirus has spread across the nation, the nation’s air-traffic control system has not been immune to the loss of workers who are either sickened or who are in quarantine.
Further, the Transportation Security Agency in multiple states have also reported that its workers in several states have been infected with the virus.
Stopping passenger service would have the effect of limiting the spread of the virus from hot spot regions to areas where the disease has not yet taken hold.
New York state, for example, has recorded more than 150 virus-related deaths and has more than 23,000 cases, according to Johns Hopkins.
Airlines are currently offering flights but have few takers on many of them due to social-distancing policies and restrictions on movement in many states and communities.
The website FlightStats noted that Tuesday morning alone, more than 8,800 flights had been canceled in the United States.
Delta Airlines has canceled more than 1,600 flights while American Airlines eliminated over 1,300 and Southwest Airlines slashed more than 1,000 flights.
The Wall Street Journal report suggested that airlines want the government to act first, so that they could use the order as a vehicle to seek federal aid later.
The federal government previously grounded all air traffic in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Trump administration has been reluctant to order a mass grounding of jets because the aircraft also carry mail and cargo, according to The Wall Street Journal.
If commercial airlines are grounded, cargo shipments could continue through the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, made up of commercial jets the government can use in an emergency, the report added.
This option would require an order from the Defense Department or White House to activate.
On Monday, during a coronavirus task force briefing, President Donald Trump indicated his opposition to a domestic travel ban.
“They thought we were going to have bans within the United States; we didn’t do that. We’re not going to have that. Hopefully that’ll take care of itself,” Trump said, according to a White House media pool report.
Trump’s remarks came a day after Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said no plan to ground domestic passenger service had been approved.
“There’s no immediate plans to put travel restrictions on domestic travel. We continue to be concerned, again, about those high-transmission areas like New York, like parts of California and Washington,” Wolf told Fox Business.
“So, we’re going to continue to look at that. If we see that we need to put some targeted travel restrictions in place, we will do that. But I will say, there’s no immediate plans as of right now for any widespread travel restrictions.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the coronavirus task force, has said that options change as the situation changes, according to CNN.
“As President Trump has said from the beginning, everything is on the table. Every day we go over data, we review it and use science and data to drive policy and decision-making,” Birx said Thursday on Fox News.
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