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US airlines, unions pushing for federal aid package extension

written by Hannah Dowling | August 4, 2020

Grounded American 2
Grounded American Airlines planes (Airlinerwatch)

Labour unions, in conjunction with airline executives, are pushing the US government to extend federal COVID-19 relief packages to the aviation industry, as the pandemic continues to hit the industry, and layoffs loom.

To date, the US Congress set aside $32 billion of a $2.2 trillion CARES package for the aviation industry, on the condition that airline companies retain staff through to 30 September. 

However, as demand for air travel continues to dwindle, many in the industry fear for the worst come 1 October, unless the US government chooses to extend wage subsidies for the ailing industry.

As such, airline unions have been pushing Congress for payroll support measures to be extended in the aviation sector until at least March 2021, with major US airlines now also supporting the measures.

Both American Airlines and United have both collectively warned more than 60,000 employees that their jobs are at risk come October, and executives at both carriers have vocally supported the labour unions’ push for Congress to provide additional support.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian has told the media that he is also in support of the measure, while Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly has been personally involved in discussions with the Trump administration to get additional aid.

“Just as before, I’m personally involved in delivering that message to our federal leaders,” Kelly said in a message to employees on Friday. 

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Kelly is reportedly also urging Washington to consider taking on other measures that will work to encourage travel again, such as a tax break on airline tickets and liabilities protection for businesses.

“Without customers and places and events for them to fly to, we’ll never punch our way out of this crisis,” Kelly said.

Southwest announced last month that it currently does not intend to layoff any of its staff this year, with over 25 per cent of employees signing on to take voluntary leaves of absence, or early retirement, in an attempt to save jobs at the airline.

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While the US House of Representatives appears initially supportive of the measures to extend COVID-19 related relief packages, there is no clear answer as of yet.

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