Butterfield, Murphy Send Bipartisan Letter to House Leadership in Hopes of Continuing American Airlines Service at PGV Airport
Wilson, N.C. – Today, G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) and Congressmen Greg Murphy, M.D. (NC-03) sent a joint bipartisan letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23). The two members, who both represent parts of Pitt County, requested House leadership to include a clean extension of the Payroll Support Program (PSP) in any future COVID-19 relief legislation.
Created in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Payroll Support Program (PSP) has offered passenger airlines payroll support for nearly one million aviation workers to prevent mass layoffs and furloughs during the coronavirus pandemic. The program will end September 30, 2020 without further Congressional action. On August 20, 2020, American Airlines announced it will suspend service at 15 regional airports, including Pitt-Greenville Airport (PGV) from October 7, 2020 through November 3, 2020. American cited the expiration of the PSP program and the air service requirements contained in the CARES Act as contributing factors for the decision to suspend service at the 15 regional airports.
The text of the letter can be found below:
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:
We appreciate your leadership in passing four bipartisan legislative packages that have provided much needed relief to Americans and our economy.
Despite the extensive support included in these legislative packages, specifically under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the aviation industry continues to incur massive financial losses impacting its employees, consumers and communities across the United States.
The Payroll Support Program (PSP), authorized by the CARES Act, has proven to be an extremely successful program by providing payroll support directly to almost one million aviation workers and preventing airlines from conducting layoffs and furloughs through September 30, 2020. Unfortunately, layoffs are slated to begin if additional relief is not secured.
In a letter to Congress, dated July 21, 2020, the Air Line Pilots Association International said, “Absent a clean reauthorization of the program, hundreds of thousands of aviation employees will lose their jobs through no fault of their own, as travel demand will remain sluggish well into 2021.” Also, in July, American Airlines notified staff that up to 25,000 employees could be furloughed when PSP expires.
Further, American Airlines recently announced its decision to temporarily suspend service to 15 airports across the United States beginning October 7 until November 3 as a result of decreased demand and in anticipation of PSP’s expiration. Most significantly, American Airlines noted in its announcement that “this is the first step as American continues to evaluate its network and plans for additional schedule changes in the coming weeks.” If Congress does not act soon, airlines could be forced to continue to suspend or permanently end service to cities across the nation. Service suspensions like these will be extremely harmful to these communities and the permanent cancellation of service combined with the loss of airline employees and others, will be absolutely devastating. Many, if not all of these airports will be severely crippled or shut down as a result.
Airports play a significant role in their communities, including providing employment, promoting tourism, and supporting the local economy. Specifically, in smaller communities, the loss of service from one airline could lead to the demise of an entire airport, adversely affecting the local community who depend on airline service.
This is especially pertinent and increasingly urgent in our districts. Pitt-Greenville Airport (PGV) in Greenville, North Carolina, covers 872 acres, supports two runways and over 100,000 passengers a year. It also provides 1,650 direct jobs and stimulates the local economy by providing roughly $280 million in economic output. As the two Members representing Pitt County and the surrounding area, the loss of American Airlines service at the Pitt-Greenville Airport would be extremely adverse to the long-term viability of this critical airport that ties many rural communities in eastern North Carolina together.
Furthermore, temporary suspension or permanent cancellation of service would have negative impacts on the Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) and their families who currently serve airports like PGV. It is highly unlikely the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will continue to provide staff at an airport that loses commercial service. Though TSA routinely ceases and resumes operations at airports by using its National Deployment Officers if a sufficient number of TSOs are not immediately available, the vast number of airports that could lose commercial air service through suspension or cancellation will place severe staffing strain on TSA after September 30.
For these many reasons, we ask you to strongly consider the inclusion of a clean extension of the PSP in any future COVID-19 relief legislation. The long-term viability of PGV’s ability to staff and service the greater Greenville area and eastern North Carolina depend on this relief.
Thank you in advance for your consideration. We are happy to chat with your offices if there is need for any more clarification.