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Southwest CEO Gary Kelly Elected Airlines For America Chairman of the Board

Aviation industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A) today announced that its Board of Directors has elected Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly to serve as the Chairman of the Board for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2021.

Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue Airways, was elected to serve as the Vice Chairman of the association.

"We are excited to have Gary ascending to the Chairman role at the time of such significant challenge for our industry, carriers and employees," A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said in a statement. "This year has been devastating for U.S. airlines, and we are looking forward to rebuilding the industry and relaunching air travel in the new year under the leadership and vision of both Gary and Robin."

Prior to the pandemic, U.S. airlines were transporting a record 2.5 million passengers and 58,000 tons of cargo per day. As travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders were implemented, demand for air travel declined sharply with passenger volumes plummeting 96 percent to a level not seen since before the dawn of the jet age. Carriers have been forced to cut flights and currently are burning $180 million in cash every day just to stay in operation.

In fact, Southwest and Kelly made a startling admission last week when it said that, for the first time in its 53-year history, the airline would have to lay off almost 7,000 employees.

"Throughout the pandemic, U.S. airline employees have continued to provide essential services, including transporting medical personnel, equipment and supplies. Now, as our nation prepares for the approval of a coronavirus vaccine, it is more critical than ever that our employees are on the job and ready to assist with the distribution of these vaccines across the country and around the world," Kelly said.

"We appreciate the support Washington extended back in March with the Payroll Support Program (PSP), and we continue to ask Congress to pass another federal relief package that will help preserve the jobs of these hardworking men and women in the U.S. airline industry.

Additionally, A4A and its members look forward to meeting with members of the new administration to discuss mutual priorities to keep the national air transportation system an important contributor to our economy."

"No doubt about it, our number one goal is survival and keeping our employees on the job and out of the unemployment line. We also can't take our eye off the importance of sustainability," added Hayes. "At the end of last year – prior to the pandemic – I remember saying that sustainability was probably the most critical issue facing the industry. We have to be fully committed to a more sustainable future."

This article originally appeared on Travel Pulse

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