U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks to reporters about coronavirus and its effect on the economy at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday urged Americans to shake off worries about the fast-spreading coronavirus and continue to fly on domestic airline routes, adding he would fly home to Los Angeles if he wasn’t so busy.
Mnuchin told reporters the Trump administration was ready to provide needed liquidity to U.S. airlines, who have been hard hit by travel restrictions and cancellations related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is of strategic importance to us,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House, adding that he was in close touch with the chief executives of U.S. airlines and the Trump administration viewed the ability of airlines to continue to fly as a top priority.
“I think the airlines want to make sure that they can continue to provide domestic travel. They also want to make sure that they keep as many workers employed as they can,” he said.
“If I weren’t so busy working I would be going home to Los Angeles and I would be perfectly comfortable getting on a commercial plane this weekend. Despite the fact that we told people to shut down travel a little bit, people can travel in the domestic U.S,” he said.
Speaking on CNBC, Mnuchin acknowledged that airlines were facing problems as a result of the coronavirus crisis, but said the Trump administration would do what it could to help.
“Airlines are having issues, but we will provide liquidity in these parts of the economy to deal with this,” he said.
The International Air Transport Association on Friday warned that the air carriers could collapse if the coronavirus crisis lasted another two or three months.
IATA Chief Alexandre de Juniac told Reuters revenue losses internationally would be “probably above” the $113 billion figure the group had forecast a week ago, before the Trump administration’s announcement of U.S. travel curbs on much of continental Europe.
Reporting by Alexandra Alper, David Lawder and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Diane Craft