Return to Transcripts main page


Airlines Struggle during Crisis; Kevin Hassett on April Jobs Numbers; Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 8, 2020 - 09:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: On a thermometer, I cannot board an airplane. That's how it's going to work?

BARRY BIFFLE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, FRONTIER AIRLINES: That's correct. And, look, from the beginning, Frontier has been making bold steps to insure that our passengers and our employees are safe. We were one of first airlines to start with the fogging procedure that disinfects the aircraft. We have a HEPA filtration system on board. We required our employees to start wearing a mask as far back as a month ago. And now these latest two steps we believe are what's necessary to keep people safe.

But I think it's a small sacrifice for us all to pay to be able to travel again and get the economy going.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because in other countries, rules like this, masks, temperature screenings, et cetera, those are national rules set by the government. Do you think that this is something that airlines across the board should be getting guidance from the FAA for masks, temperature checks, et cetera, rather than leaving it to individual airlines? Do you think it should be consistent?

BIFFLE: We welcome the government enforcing this. In fact, I believe that you should be checked at the curb before you enter an airport. But we're at the point where we're listening to our customers. And over half of our customers tell us that they want temperature checks, they want people to wear masks. And so we're moving with it. If the government and TSA starts rolling this out, we may pull back having to do the temperature checks. But until then, we've got to do everything we can to keep you safe on board.

SCIUTTO: Masks help. They're not 100 percent foolproof, particularly if they're not those N-95 masks.

I just want to show an animation that we've shown on this broadcast from time to time that shows how quickly inside the confined space of an airplane that, you know, if I cough and I got the -- I got the infection, how quickly it spreads around the plane. I'm sure you're familiar with this.

I just wonder, does Frontier have any data to show that the combination of masks, the HEPA filters, the cleaning prevents that kind of spread?

BIFFLE: So our understanding is, yes, with everyone wearing the facial coverings, plus the filtration systems that filters the air in a matter of minutes, we believe is what's needed to keep you safe.

Plus, remember, we're going to make sure that no one on board the aircraft has a temperature, which is not foolproof. But, again, all these measures layered together we believe is going to keep them safe.


Frontier got some grief, as I know you're aware, about initially asking passengers to pay 40 some odd bucks or so to keep a middle seat empty, to -- to space out from other passengers. You've now withdrawn that policy, under some pressure from passengers. Was that a mistake?

BIFFLE: I don't know if it was a mistake. I mean I think there's confusion. You know, Frontier's average fare last year was $50 compared to, you know, call it around $200 for the big airlines. And so I think you just have to look at our overall model and what customers would have paid in total.

But, look, we've rolled it back and we still continue to block the seats, so you can get it for no additional cost and you can enjoy really low fares on So it's behind us now.

SCIUTTO: Final question, if I can. I mean this has just been devastating for airlines. I mean drops in 95 percent in air traffic. People are still concerned about hopping back on to planes. In normal times, airlines operate on pretty thin margins here.

I just wonder, if medium and long-term, that the age of cheap, fast, easy air travel, we got used to is just -- is just over. I mean is there going to be a new normal after this for airlines like Frontier?

BIFFLE: So -- so we believe that we went into this better positioned financially than most carriers and we'll thrive on the other side. But that is why we are so focused on keeping everyone safe and making sure they're confident in their travel because the longer this does go on, it will be devastating and someone will have to pay for the costs, and that could be in the form of higher airfares at some point.


BIFFLE: So I think it's more important today that we all focus on keeping everyone safe and getting them back on airplanes.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, we wish you, we wish your employees the best of luck. We know these are really challenging times for Frontier and other airlines.

Barry Biffle, thanks so much.

BIFFLE: Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We just got the single worst jobs report in American history. More than 20 million jobs lost last month alone. White House Senior Economic Adviser Kevin Hassett is with us next.



HARLOW: The worst jobs report in U.S. history. More than 20 million Americans lost their jobs last month alone. The unemployment rate now stands at a devastating 14.7 percent.

Kevin Hassett, senior economic adviser to the president, is with me from the White House.

And, Kevin, I mean, that number doesn't even tell the story. You and I both agree the real unemployment number, U-6, which is under employed people, or people not looking for work, 22.8 percent, a record high, is really what tells the story here.

Is this the worst of it or will we see even the higher unemployment in the months to come?


Well, first, I just want to say how heartbreaking it is to see a report like this because, you know, each unemployed person is a person whose life is now in turmoil. And so to have, you know, really -- if you add the initial claims that have come in after the survey week of the 12th, you're looking at well more than 30 million people that have had their lives really up ended by this shutdown. And so I -- you know, I think that already just looking at the claims we've had since they did the survey that this data comes from, we've probably added about another 4 or 5 percent to the unemployment rate. And so probably the next number will be a little bit higher than this.

But there was one bit of -- or one bright spot, believe it or not, even in the worst jobs report ever, and it was just something that surprised the heck out of me, which is that almost everybody that is like a new unemployed person, like 18 million of them said that they expect to be rehired by their employer.


HARLOW: Yes, I saw that.

HASSETT: And so -- and so the fact -- right. And so the fact that there are so many people who are optimistic that we're going to turn this thing right around and they're going to get back to work. It -- the thing about the way economics works is that prophecies like that can be self-fulfilling. You know, like everybody thinks they're not going back to work, then, you know, everybody hunkers down and the economy can't get started again.

HARLOW: Well --

HASSETT: But the fact that all these folks are saying, you know, we expect that we're going to get back to work means that there's a chance at least that we have sort of this positive equilibrium -- HARLOW: As --

HASSETT: Where people are optimistic because other people are optimistic.

HARLOW: I hope so.

HASSETT: I hope so too.

HARLOW: But all of this is really dependent on cures and treatments and a vaccine.


HARLOW: OK, so it's going to go higher. How much higher do you think the unemployment rate will go?

HASSETT: Well, I that that -- that, again, we should -- the next one should be around 20. I was thinking this one might be as much as 20, but we had a big decline in the labor force as well. And so -- so the numbers are going to be probably -- is probably going to be best it look at, as you said, the U-6.


HASSETT: And so that's that 22 percent. It will probably be 25 percent in the next report.


HASSETT: And then hopefully from there it will start to head back in the right direction.

HARLOW: Wow. So --

HASSETT: I think we're going to enter a transition period this summer, before we have sort of another, you know, reignition of the economy and I think that we're not quite in the transition period yet.

HARLOW: Kevin, as you know, the pain is not equally distributed and I immediately looked at the numbers for Hispanic and African-American unemployment in this report. And 16.7 percent for African-Americans, 18.9 percent for Hispanics after "The Washington Post" polling this week showed Hispanics are twice as likely to lose their job because of this pandemic than white Americans.

Are you talking about that in the White House right now?

HASSETT: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, 100 percent. In fact, it's one of the things that I've even testified in Congress about, you know, before I came into the White House that if you look at what happens in normal times, in hires they're, you know, basically minorities and Caucasians have about the same probability of getting hired, but when there's a downturn, then it tends to disproportionately affect minority populations.


HASSETT: And you can definitely see that in this report, you know, that -- that it was much worse for Hispanics and much worse for African-Americans. And so that's absolutely something we're watching very, very closely.

HARLOW: I understand watching, but what about talking about how to help those most in need?

HASSETT: Sure. It's a factor -- absolutely.

HARLOW: Because you know, for you and I, I mean I can work at home if I need to, and we're luckier than most. And for so many of these front line workers and so many minorities, they don't have that option.

HASSETT: Right. And absolutely as we're having policy discussions about potentially another round of stimulus or that -- or another bill to help us get connected or get back up on our feet.

Yes, yesterday I was on a phone call with a bipartisan group of House Democrats, and Republicans, and, you know, one of the issues that came up was really the heartbreaking story of a person saying that -- is told to stay at home and they don't have the Internet. And so it's really hard for them to, like, do their online learning or connect to the outside world and so on. And so --

HARLOW: Look, it's actually completely unjust. It's -- I mean that's what it is.

HASSETT: It's terrible. And one of the Congress members, you know, I -- it was an off the record call, proposed something like having schools provide hot spots to students that need them. You know, those little --

HARLOW: Well, that's the -- for sure.

HASSETT: Bricks that --

HARLOW: That's the least -- that's the least they can do.

HASSETT: But the point is that I don't -- I don't know where -- where -- that's the kind of thing, just to show that these discussions are absolutely happening.


HASSETT: That we're aware of the disproportional impact of the downturn.


HASSETT: And we're thinking about everything that we can spot that we can do to help.

HARLOW: Just two more brief questions for you, Kevin. One is on a payroll tax cut. You've been a big cheerleader for this.

The president said, you know, in the last week, no, you know, fourth deal without a payroll tax cut. I just -- but I don't get it, what good is a payroll tax cut right now with so many Americans out of work?

HASSETT: Right. Well, the payroll tax cut is not the only thing that would be in the next bill. And I think you're right, that the payroll tax cut means that the people who are still connected to work get to take more of their money home.


HASSETT: But the people who don't have a job, the payroll tax cut isn't going to do much except for maybe make it easier for them to get hired, cheaper for them to get hired by the employer.

HARLOW: Right.

HASSETT: And so it's part -- it's part of a package. It's not the only thing.


Final thing here, and I know that you -- I'm sure you noticed this yesterday, as we did, the Fed Fund Futures went negative yesterday for the first time ever. That's never happened before. And I ask you because the president has talked so much touting the option, I suppose, of negative interest rates, which we haven't seen in this country.

Given the extreme turmoil in the country right now, you don't like negative interest rates. Does the president still want to see the Fed take interest rates into negative territory?

HASSETT: Well, I mean, we'll have to watch and see what the president says about that after looking at all the data and everything. But, you know, my job is to respect the independence of the Fed and to just not get in their lane. And I think that there are central banks around the world that have felt that they've had to make that move. If our central bank decides they have to make the move, then I would fully support them. I mean these are really professional guys and gals that are, you know, playing in a really difficult --

HARLOW: But you wouldn't advise it?

HASSETT: Excuse me?

HARLOW: You wouldn't advise it?

HASSETT: I would not advise them anything. I have to respect their independence. I mean I -- you know, I don't --


[09:45:01] HASSETT: I just don't do that. The -- you know, we -- the Fed is an independent agency and we don't need people with political positions like myself that, you know, economically weighing in. You know, it's different for me as an economic adviser at the White House. Just, you know, to respect the independence of the Fed is a very high priority for me.

HARLOW: Fair enough. Kevin Hassett, again, as you said at the top, these numbers are devastating. We appreciate the work you're doing at the White House.

HASSETT: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thanks for being here.

HASSETT: Thank you.

HARLOW: Of course.


SCIUTTO: Of course interesting comments there on the White House and the Fed given the president's frequent comments.

As first responders across the nation deal with the emotional toll of fighting coronavirus outbreak, one father and daughter in New Jersey say they are in this together. We're going to speak to them next.



HARLOW: Some 120 National Guard members are being deployed to help long-term care facilities in New Jersey to serve as backup for the overworked health care providers. There are more than half of the state's deaths from Covid-19 and 8,807 deaths have come from those facilities. But the grim reality is not stopping a father/daughter duo from bringing hope to their hospital in New Brunswick.

Xanilyn and Valentine Red, seen here in a tweet just last month from Governor Murphy, have been treating coronavirus patients at Saint Peter's University Hospital, working side by side through this pandemic. They both join us now.

Thank you guys for what you're doing. It's extraordinary and so important and it must just be remarkable to be working side by side through all of this.

Valentine, let me just begin with you because you're a respiratory therapist, Xanilyn, you're an ICU nurse. Your mother also is a health care provider at Jersey City Medical Center.

What's it like, Valentine, to be doing this alongside your daughter?

VALENTINE RED, RESPIRATORY THERAPIST, SAINT PETER'S UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: First of all, I'm really proud of Xanilyn. She's a strong person, like her mom. And she's caring.

But with this situation right now, this Covid pandemic, it's kind of -- it's scary every time we go to work, you know. And I'm not really scared about going to work, because you know we're all protected with proper PPEs, but the thing that scares me all the time is like will we bring it home? That's my main concern.

HARLOW: Of course. And, Xanilyn, I know you're really worried, frankly, for your parents, right, because you've talked about them both being in the vulnerable demographic.


HARLOW: How has it been for you?

X. RED: So when this initially started, I was paranoid beyond belief, like having them both go to work. But, you know, they're not going to stop going to work because of my paranoia. So it was just something we had to have a very honest conversation about. Me and my parents were both going to take care of Covid patients and there was always going to be a risk of exposure.

So, I mean, with that -- having that conversation and just moving from a "what if" mentality to just being more in the present and also creating protocols for how to come home and making sure we, you know, we keep everything that's dirty at work and we sanitize everything, has caused some relief, but that fear is always still there.

HARLOW: Of course.

X. RED: It's just not preventing us from taking care of our patients to the best of our capability.

HARLOW: Wow. You have said, Xanilyn, that the hardest part of your job is maintaining your emotional integrity through your shift, right? But I assume you mean because you have to be a face of strength to your patients because they're terrified.

X. RED: Yes. So we -- in the ICU we usually have one to two patients depending on the acuity. Sometimes it could go up to three patients. Given the amount of patient volume we've had. And a lot of these Covid patients can crash so quickly, they can be talking to you one second and then be completely out of breath and they can't breathe. So dealing with that and addressing that as quickly as we can and then going to another patient that's also equally as sick. So just having to go from back and forth, taking care of sick patients --

HARLOW: Of course.

X. RED: It's hard to be a stronghold for them. And then a lot of the patients that are here, they are in isolation. And our hospital hasn't allowed any visitors to come in just because of the infectious protocol. So being there for a patient and having them feel connected during this time of distance has also been really important.

And, you know, as a nurse, we're one of the only people that they see and we are covered in PPE.

HARLOW: Yes. Of course. They -- they can't --

X. RED: So showing that sense of -- yes, they can't even see our faces, you know, for protection purposes. But just showing that sense of humanity, I think is also really important.

HARLOW: So important, right? I mean they can't even see when you smile. A know a lot of nurses have said that that's really hard, they can't even show their smile to their patients.

Valentine, can you just talk about what it's like as a dad, because, as parents, we don't ever want our children to be in harm's way, but this is your passion for your daughter. What's it like for you to balance being a professional by her side but also her father?

V. RED: First of all, I'm very proud of Xanilyn that she's a nurse, and, like her mom. But -- but, for me, I always tell her, you know, like, you have to do the right thing. And we have -- and I have taught her to do the right thing.


And just protect yourself all the time because I have a history of stroke, three years ago, you know. I have a history of hypertension. And she worried too much. And I always tell her, like, sweetheart, don't worry about me. I enjoyed my life already. It's sad for me to say that, but I'm worried about her. I'm not worried about me. And I want her to enjoy her life.

And this pandemic right now, it scares me. And I hope people will just stay home, because that's the best thing. If they need to go out, practice social distancing, and avoid going to crowded places. You know, it's scary, and people have to realize that, because we've seen everything in the hospital. People are dying left and right.

HARLOW: I know.

V. RED: And families are not there. You die alone.

HARLOW: Oh, it's tragedy upon tragedy.

Thank you both for what you're doing. Xanilyn, I think your dad could use a hug right now.

Thanks -- thanks to you both. You can tell how worried he is about you.

We wish you guys a lot of luck and safety.

We'll be right back.