NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — They received $25 billion dollars in federal aid during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Now the airlines are pressing Congress and the White House for $28 billion more— and they make a very compelling case.
During a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby noted there’s a bipartisan accord building in Congress for a second installment of the CARES Act.
“There’s no one that’s opposed to it,” Kirby said. “It’s just getting it over the finish line.”
But time is running out. Without a relief package ready to go by the end of the month, major airlines say they’ll be forced to get rid of 60,000 workers immediately, with the strong possibility of another hundred-thousand layoffs down the road.
Those job losses would come alongside major cuts to travel routes. Some smaller airports face the possibility of losing service entirely.
The airline bosses are being joined in their appeal by union leaders.
“I think it’s very important that we remember that this is a jobs program,” National Association of Flight Attendants president Sara Nelson said of the request for aid. “So what we’re talking about for the next six months is hundreds of thousands of workers getting a paycheck.”
“Everyone thought in March – thought and hoped – that we’d be in a different place [now]. But we’re not. We’re still directly in the middle of this crisis.”
At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the publisher of ‘Airport Voice’ newspaper, Jeff Yapalater, told NewsNation the implications are even more far-reaching than most travelers realize.
“If this does not get another CARES Act to help the airlines,” said Yapalater. “We’re going to see a major impact on the Queens economy, and we’re going to see a major impact on these airports across the country.”
As they appeal for more help, the airlines are reminding Congress of the devastating impact the pandemic has already had on their industry. At its lowest point in April, airlines reported passenger volumes down 96%. That level has not been seen since the 1950’s.
They’re still down approximately 70%, and even after cutting executive pay, parking a third of their planes and encouraging voluntary leaves and early retirements, domestic carriers as a group have a cash burn of about $5 billion a month.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said he finds one of the most frustrating aspects how close Congressional leaders are to making a deal but there is no sign they’ll make the October 1 deadline.
“I just can’t believe we can’t do the right thing because our elected officials can’t come to any sort of compromise agreement,” said Parker.