JetBlue CEO says flight bookings for holiday season have not yet been hurt by rising Covid cases

Travel

JetBlue has not yet experienced a decline in demand for flights around the upcoming holidays despite increasing coronavirus cases across the United States, Chief Executive Robin Hayes told CNBC on Tuesday.

“We continue to see a fair bit of interest for travel around the Thanksgiving and holiday period,” Hayes said on “Closing Bell.” “You’ve got a lot of kids coming back from college. A lot of people are seeing friends and family they haven’t seen for a long time. … We’ve been in a rising case count here for a couple weeks, and so far, we haven’t seen an impact on bookings.”

Hayes’ comments Tuesday came after the airline reported third-quarter results before the bell. Its loss per share of $1.75, excluding items, was better than the $1.96 analysts had forecast. Revenue of $492 million surpassed estimates of $466 million. Shares of New York City-based JetBlue closed down more than 5%.

Earlier Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged the city’s residents not to travel outside of the state for the upcoming holidays. “Realize that by doing that, unfortunately, you could be putting yourself and your family in danger and also the risk of bringing the disease back here,” he said earlier Tuesday during a news briefing.

De Blasio asked that those who do travel get tested for the coronavirus and comply with the state of New York’s policy that requires people to quarantine for 14 days if they arrived from states that have certain rates of infection. As of Tuesday, more than 40 states were on the quarantine list.

Physical testing sites will be in operation at LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport around the holidays. “We want to make it easy and clear that anyone coming off a plane should immediately get tested as well,” de Blasio added.

The mayor’s concerns about holiday travel echo those of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert. Fauci has said his children, who live in three different states, have decided not to travel to see him for Thanksgiving.

“I would love to have it with my children, but my children are in three separate states throughout the country and in order for them to get here, they would all have to go to an airport, get on a plane and travel with public transportation,” Fauci told CBS News earlier this month.

Also Tuesday, the State University of New York system announced that all students who use on-campus facilities will be required to test negative within 10 days before departing for Thanksgiving break.

Most schools in the 64-institution SUNY system, as well as many others across the U.S., are shifting to fully remote classes to finish the academic period after Thanksgiving, citing the potential of back-and-forth travel facilitating the spread of the coronavirus.

“By requiring all students to test negative before leaving, we are implementing a smart, sensible policy that protects students’ families and hometown communities and drastically reduces the chances of COVID-19 community spread,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said in a press release.

There are 36 U.S. states currently experiencing a rise in hospitalizations from Covid-19, and on Monday, the average number of new infections hit another record high.

— CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.

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