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Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) speaks at the Senate Finance Committee hearing at the US Capitol on February 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.


The head of a crucial congressional committee overseeing the aviation sector is pushing six US airways to make clear employee shortages, flight cancellations and delays soon after the federal government equipped billions in federal help to the airline marketplace amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington and chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, wrote Friday to the CEOs of American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Republic, and Allegiant airways, asking them about reviews of pilot, flight attendant and employee shortages and to account for the use of the $54 billion in federal reduction to hold employees utilized that was contingent on no layoffs.

Cantwell wrote that she is “concerned that, at best,” the airlines “poorly managed its advertising and marketing of flights and workforce as more people today are touring, and, at worst, it failed to satisfy the intent of tax payer funding and get ready for the surge in journey that we are now witnessing.”

The senator also asked for a personnel briefing from each individual of the airlines by the close of the thirty day period.

The airline sector was hit tough during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic very last yr, as travel constraints have been enforced and Individuals ended up encouraged to stay dwelling to sluggish the unfold of the virus. Airways significantly reduce their flight schedules due to the fall in journey demand from customers fundamentally at zero.

At the industry’s ask for, Congress established the Payroll Assist System to give loans to airways to guidance the fork out and added benefits of employees. The 3 rounds of billions in federal payroll support for the airline field barred layoffs, involuntary furloughs or fork out cuts for personnel.

Airlines, even so, furloughed staff members in the course of lapses in the federal assist. To even more cut fees, airways presented voluntary buyout and early retirement deals, and asked for that personnel choose voluntary unpaid or reduced-compensated leaves. The airline field nonetheless finished the calendar year with large report losses.

Now, with the greater part of Individuals vaccinated and the state reopening, leisure flights and bookings are returning to pre-pandemic levels and airlines have begun contacting back personnel who had been on voluntary depart.

American announced in late June that would trim 1{d076f48f335fad70bc9a39ddaab4bad3d03a322aeed29a268fc77d385b74453a} of flights from its timetable by means of mid-July, citing bad weather and staffing shortages.

Southwest last month canceled or delayed 1000’s of flights – the most of any US airline – declaring that its schedules and staffing have also been thrown off by the increasing demand from customers and weather conditions.

“This noted workforce scarcity runs counter to the objective and spirit of the (Payroll Assist Software), which was to help airways to endure the pandemic and keep workforce on payroll so that the industry was positioned to seize a rebound in desire,” Cantwell wrote in her letters. She extra that the “disruptions in air journey have harmed U.S. customers just as the American economy is rebounding, and the present airline workforce is staying placed under immense strain to meet up with need.”

CNN has achieved out to the airlines for comment on the letters.

In a assertion to CNN, Southwest said it is “staffed for what we’re traveling and we’re traveling for what we staffed.”

Southwest was in a position to stay clear of involuntary layoffs and furloughs that other airlines imposed last year, after some of its workers took unpaid voluntary leave, buyouts and early retirement offers. As bookings and journey ramp up, Southwest in April recalled all flight attendants and some pilots who were on voluntary leaves to return to get the job done this summer season.

“We’re fortunate to be the only important airline to sustain support at each individual U.S. airport we served prior to the pandemic, and to have used Congressional Payroll Support to retain staffing (continuing a 50-year heritage of no layoffs, no furloughs) to support both equally that continual service, and the flight schedule we created for the summer season of 2021,” the firm claimed.

The company reiterated that past month’s “unusually significant number” of flight delays and cancellations was owing to “prolonged and widespread thunderstorms, infrastructure problems and unrelated issues with technological know-how.”

CNN’s Chris Isidore, Rashard Rose, Gregory Wallace and Pete Muntean contributed to this report.