President Donald Trump said Wednesday that his administration is looking at ordering airlines to cut back on domestic flights in an effort to quell the spread of the coronavirus between cities already under siege by the pandemic.
But Trump said he isn't ready to issue a national stay-at-home order, saying it isn't needed in some states.
Some governors have tried to take action in the travel space on their own. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days, states that are among those hit hardest by the coronavirus. Alaska and Hawaii are also requiring anyone arriving from other states to self-quarantine.
Now Trump says he is thinking about regulating those flights from a national level.
"You have them going, in some cases, from hot spot to hot spot," Trump said about airlines at his daily briefing on the crisis. But he added that is aware of the hardship it would impose on the airlines.
"Once you do that," he said, referring to restricting domestic flights, "you are clamping down on an industry that is desperately needed."
Airlines, industry officials and even health experts say flights are an essential service, for people and cargo, and need to continue during the crisis.
And the federal government underscored that position with a key provision in the $2 trillion coronavirus aid package approved last week: airlines that accept a share of the $50 billion set aside for the industry must maintain a minimum level of service through at least September.
On Monday, just days after signing the coronavirus relief package that includes the airline minimum service provisions, Trump was asked on Fox & Friends why millions of people are still flying from hot spots, why airports are still open and whether he planned to close airports.
“We are going to be – hopefully before we close things – we’re going to start to open things," Trump said. "Airports, when you close them and reopen them, it’s a tremendous deal. It’s a tremendous deal. In addition, you need them for emergencies, you have emergency flights."
The Federal Aviation Administration would be the agency to order any shutdown or restrictions as happened a year ago when the Boeing 737 Max was grounded following two fatal crashes in less than five months. Asked about the potential for grounding flights nationwide, the agency responded with a statement: “The FAA does not comment on rumors.”
Airlines have drastically reduced flight schedules in face of plummeting passenger volume between cities. Trump has also imposed a ban on foreign nationals visiting the U.S. from China and most of Europe, including France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. He also has imposed restrictions on non-essential travel from Mexico and Canada.
Trump said, however, that a national stay-at-home order isn't needed because "you to give a little bit of flexibility" in states or regions where the coronavirus hasn't been as big a problem. He cited the Midwest and Alaska as examples.
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Trump weighs limiting flights between cities under siege