The airline industry is reeling worse than it was in the aftermath of 9-11, and Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is not immune to the coronavirus crisis.
Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden told investors on Monday that the company is cutting back on flights, deferring payments to Boeing for pending jet deliveries and asking employees to take voluntary leaves of absence to ease the financial burden for the airline.
Tilden is also cutting his base salary to 0 as the crisis continues.
Nearly 1 million fewer passengers passed through airport security checkpoints nationwide on Friday, part of a steep drop-off in air travel over the past two weeks linked to the coronavirus, data show.
U.S. Treasury Secretary said Tuesday that for airlines, "this is worse than 9/11."
"They are almost ground to a halt," he said. "Although we don't want to travel unless it's critical, we want to have domestic travel open."
The Transportation Security Administration data counted 957,000 fewer passengers that day compared with the equivalent day in 2019. It is the most recent day for which the throughput numbers are available.
Overall in the past two weeks, nearly 5.2 million fewer people have passed through checkpoints.
The declines have escalated in the most recent days, according to the agency.
In that timeframe, airlines have said that more people are canceling flights than booking new flights. The airlines have made major cuts to their schedules, and still expect many planes to fly with many empty seats.
US airlines have asked for a package of about $50 billion in aid from the federal government, and several are asking employees to take leaves of absence.
President Donald Trump voiced support on Tuesday for an aid package that helps airlines.
"This is not their fault," he said. "We're going to be helping them."
The numbers only include passengers screened by TSA, and so it does not demonstrate the decline in passengers traveling to the US who are screened by officials in other countries.
Eight screening officers with TSA have been confirmed to have the virus, the agency has said.