Vittert: Airlines’ abuse of taxpayer dollars inexcusable

On Balance with Leland Vittert

FILE – Air France planes are parked on the tarmac at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris, May 17, 2019. Air France pilots are under scrutiny after recent incidents that have prompted French investigators to call for tougher safety protocols. An airline official said two Air France pilots were suspended after physically fighting in the cockpit on a Geneva-Paris flight in June, 2022. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

(NewsNation) — As if you needed another reason to hate the airlines, turns out they might have used taxpayer dollars for staff buyouts.

In other words, they used our money during COVID to lay people off and now the airlines blame low staff numbers to give us all terrible service. Seems fair, right?

CNBC reports that two top Democrats want a Treasury Department investigation into how airlines spent COVID relief dollars.

Their letter reads, in part: “As a result of pilot shortages, thousands of flights have been delayed or canceled, wreaking havoc on travel plans for millions of American taxpayers.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the airlines got a combined $54 billion in our money. The deal went something like this: Keep flying. Keep paying your employees. Keep moving cargo and we, the taxpayers, will underwrite your losses. Emphasis on keep paying your employees.

During the same time, airlines offered buyouts to a lot of employees. Coincidence? The congressman say perhaps not.

Now that we are all back flying and buying expensive tickets, the airlines claim they can’t meet demand because of staff shortages. Could it be they are short staffed because they offered buyouts, AKA glorified layoffs, to the same people they need now?

FILE – People wait in a TSA line at the John F. Kennedy International Airport on June 28, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson, File)

The airlines, of course, deny it. This from CNBC: “Airlines for America, a trade group which represents American, Delta, United, Southwest and other major U.S. carriers, said the funds from the payroll support program for airlines ‘went only to the paychecks of employees, as stipulated by law, and carriers have paid back the government loans.'”

Yes, they paid back the loans, but a lot of it was just grants. We reported back in April that as airline stocks soared, the CEOs just keep getting richer.

So where is our money? And by that I mean the taxpayer money given to the airlines so the CEOs could keep their fat salaries. Surely, they will pay the taxpayers back with interest before giving the CEOs bonuses, or paying dividends or buying back stock.

Nope.

Surely the Trump administration negotiated that like the bailout of banks in 2008, so the taxpayers would make a big profit. Like the $10 billion we made from the banks.

Nope.

So we get paid back as the stock rises?

Nope, not that either.

Long story short, we aren’t getting it back.

We’ll let you know what comes of the investigation into what the airlines actually did with the money.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.

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