The airline bailout passed last week requires carriers taking the money not to furlough employees through September, and to maintain air service to all of the cities they serve. However that’s going to mean ghost flights, that don’t make cost sense (or environmental sense).
So they’ve already come up with a way around it that will be broached with the Trump administration. It basically calls for waiving anti-trust rules so that airlines could codeshare with each other, and have those codeshares count as retaining service. According to CNBC,
How would service consolidation work? Take the route from New York City to St. Louis, Missouri. Right now, American, Delta and Southwest all fly the route from LaGuardia Airport to St. Louis Lambert International Airport. If the route were temporarily consolidated, all airlines would continue selling tickets on the route, but the carriers would agree to put all the passengers on one plane.
…If the Transportation Deparment agrees to temporarily consolidate service to dozens of cities under one airline, it would allow airlines to further cut costs without totally shutting the industry.
It’s a creative idea, and one that only works I think provided load factors remain exceptionally low even on the consolidated service so that passengers can still social distance in the cabins. I can imagine though that some cities might get down to just a single flight a day on one carrier under this sort of arrangement.