Over the past few weeks, air traffic has dropped dramatically as cases of COVID-19 have spread around the world. An industry group says most airlines could go bankrupt by the end of May. The Washington Post reported today that the industry is requesting more than $50 billion in federal aid to make up for revenue lost as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Silver Airways, a Fort Lauderdale-based company, is among those struggling airlines. In a stark letter released this afternoon, CEO Steven Rossum has asked U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao for "immediate direct assistance." A press release from Silver says federal funding is "required in order for the airline to survive the most dire crisis the industry has ever faced and upon which whose continued operation depends."
Founded in 2011, the small airline now offers flights between Florida, the Bahamas, and other Caribbean nations. Silver says its 1,000 employees will be affected by the industry crisis.
"The jobs and livelihood of our loyal employees and passengers we provide air transportation for, including military, leisure and business travelers throughout the Southeast and Caribbean... are gravely at risk," Rossum wrote.
Below is the full text of Rossum's letter, which was addressed to Mnuchin, Chao, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz:
Dear Secretaries Mnuchin and Chao, Senators Rubio and Scott, and Representative Wasserman-Schultz:
On behalf of the 1,000 dedicated and hardworking aviation professionals of Silver Airways (based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and our subsidiary Seaborne Airlines, I am writing to enlist your assistance by way of potential aid noted by President Trump, Vice President Pence and Secretary Mnuchin that would provide significant financial assistance to commercial airlines in order to continue providing critical air transportation in the face of COVID-19. Immediate and direct assistance is both respectfully requested and required.
Our passenger bookings have dropped dramatically over the past month and we are experiencing an even greater and unprecedented decline in forward bookings each day and ever-increasing cancellations as citizens and visitors are encouraged not to travel. We had expected to carry over 1,000,000 passengers in 2020, but expect to fall far short of that target.
As an American regional airline that services the entire State of Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean, our airline and employees have already faced – and are continuing to recover from – numerous recent disasters of historic magnitude, including Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Dorian.
The jobs and livelihood of our loyal employees and passengers we provide air transportation for, including military, leisure and business travelers throughout the Southeast and Caribbean from our gateways in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are gravely at risk. In addition, we provide important service to key military markets, including Pensacola, Florida; Huntsville, Alabama; and Charleston, South Carolina, among others. And we provide valuable and consumer-friendly connecting service to our destinations from many of America’s most important passenger airlines, including United, JetBlue, American and Delta.
On behalf of Silver Airways' 1,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of customers we serve annually, we are in dire need of any assistance you can provide that will allow us to continue flying and providing the safe, reliable air transportation that is critical to the Southeastern U.S., Bahamas and the Caribbean. We hope and trust you can be in a position to support this need.
Steven A. Rossum
Chief Executive Officer
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.