United CEO sees low air travel until a widely available vaccine

Some sectors of the economy may be able to bounce back before a coronavirus vaccine is widely distributed, Kirby said, but the aviation industry is not one of them. Without an extension of funds for airlines in March’s CARES Act by Oct. 1, Kirby predicted about 16,000 layoffs at his company.

The airline chief said international travel, which represents half of United’s revenue, is still badly lagging and that business travel is almost nonexistent.

“In a business like ours, demand is not going to come back until people feel safe being around other people, and that’s going to take a vaccine,” Kirby said.

Appearing separately Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm, asked to explain recent comments by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci that Americans would need to “hunker down” in the coming months, predicted it would take months of vaccine distribution to have a meaningful effect on the American population.

“When the vaccine does become available, it won’t be in any meaningful way until the beginning of next year, and then it’s still going to take us months to vaccinate the population of just this country,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

“We really have another 12 to 14 months of a really hard road ahead of us,” he added.

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