A new Republican COVID-19 spending package introduced into the US Senate on Tuesday does not include any new government assistance for US airlines or airports, as the industry faces job losses in the tens of thousands come October.
The US aviation sector and industry unions have been pushing for a six-month extension of federal aid, as the industry continues to grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 downturn, with word of protests being planned outside the US Capitol.
More than 35,000 employees just from America’s largest carriers alone – American Airlines and United Airlines – are set to lose their jobs following the expiry of the government’s initial $25 billion payroll subsidy, introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 economic crisis.
This aid, which included restrictions on share buybacks, executive compensation and required the airlines to retain all staff and pay, is due to expire on 30 September. The industry is now bracing for mass layoffs.
Last month, a group of Republicans in the Senate backed an extension of the $25 billion payroll assistance package for airlines, which also received support from Democrats. There was also an earlier Senate bill that dictated an additional $10 billion in assistance for airports.
However, both proposals were notably excluded from the Senate measure introduced on Tuesday. This latest measure is expected to be voted upon on Thursday.
US President Donald Trump has put forward the idea of extending airline aid without congressional action, however the government has yet to settle on that approach.
This could potentially see unspent funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March redirected to airline recovery efforts, however it is unlikely this could be achieved without going through Congress.
Airlines are expecting a slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, however argue that they need trained workers ready to service and fuel any economic rebound, when conditions improve.