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Coronavirus Pandemic Hits Plane Makers, Complicates 737 MAX Return

Airbus slashes production rates, including for A320, a rival to MAX

The crisis that has embroiled the world’s airlines is now hitting the industry’s biggest aircraft makers, Boeing Co. BA 5.25% and Airbus EADSY -2.37% SE, and further challenging Boeing’s efforts to return its 737 MAX to service.

Airbus said it was slashing production by about a third after booking just 21 net orders for jets in March and delivering 36 jets to customers, amid a flood of requests by customers to defer and cancel orders.

Underscoring the challenge for Boeing’s 737 MAX, Airbus said it was cutting its production of the MAX’s chief rival—the A320—to 40 a month, down from about 60 precrisis. Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said the company was working on “operational and financial mitigation measures to face reality” amid the coronavirus pandemic, including slashing spending and cutting costs at its plants.

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Judge Allows Travel-Industry Deal, Rejecting Justice Department Antitrust Complaint

Ruling could hamper antitrust enforcers in future cases

A Delaware federal judge rejected the Justice Department’s challenge of a deal in which travel-booking service Sabre SABR +11.88% Corp. is seeking to acquire an industry upstart, a stinging ruling that could hamper antitrust enforcers in future cases.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark, in a decision made public Wednesday, ruled the department failed to prove that Sabre’s planned purchase of Farelogix Inc. would unlawfully suppress competition.

Texas-based Sabre is the lead booking service for travel agents. The Justice Department said Miami-based Farelogix has newer, better flight-booking technology that is providing important competition and bringing benefits to airlines and consumers. Many industry participants supported the merger, but others including American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. didn’t.

Sabre argued that it and Farelogix offer complementary products, and combining them would drive faster innovation that serves airlines and travelers.

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The Frustrated Travelers Battling for Refunds

Some airlines, cruise ships and other travel companies have been slow delivering money back for trips canceled by the coronavirus pandemic

The Transportation Department says airlines have to offer refunds for flights they cancel, and they are canceling thousands of trips for lack of passengers. That's clearly seen at the south checkpoint at Denver International Airport on April 1. 

The feds have warned airlines that they must offer travelers a refund when the airline cancels a flight.

Some airlines are doing what they should. But a sampling of reader responses to last week’s column shows people still running into drawn-out fights for refunds and rebookings with airlines. Travelers are still finding headaches when dealing with online booking agencies, cruise lines and others, too. While travel plans vanished overnight because of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of travel issues remain up in the air.

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White House to Discuss How to Help Airlines

Officials will brief President Trump on Thursday afternoon on their plans for assistance to airlines

WASHINGTON—Officials will brief President Trump on Thursday afternoon on their plans for assistance to airlines, which are eligible for grants and loans as part of a $2.2 trillion economic relief package, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday.

“We hope to get to a lot of the airlines starting tomorrow and over the weekend with preliminary information,” he said in an interview with CNBC. “It is our objective to make sure that, as I’ve said, this is not a bailout, but that airlines have the liquidity to keep their workers in place.”

“That’s the next big thing we’ll be rolling out,” he added.

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