The Trump administration is open to a stand-alone coronavirus stimulus bill that provides additional emergency aid to U.S. airlines, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Thursday after meeting with industry executives.
Airlines are hoping to receive another $25 billion to stave off tens of thousands of job losses, Meadows said.
“Compared to $1.5 trillion, it’s a rather small amount of additional assistance that could potentially keep 30,000 to 50,000 workers on the payroll," he said.
Executives who attended the meeting with Meadows included American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly.
"Chief Meadows assured us the White House is very interested in getting something done," Kelly told reporters after the meeting.
Under the terms of a $25 billion bailout fund that was created earlier this year as part of the CARES Act, airlines are prohibited from cutting jobs or reducing workers' pay through Sept. 30. But absent another stimulus deal, major airlines have warned they will be forced to furlough thousands of pilots, flight attendants, gate agents and other employees.
United Airlines plans to furlough up to 16,370 employees in October (though it reached a tentative agreement with the pilots union to avoid nearly 3,000 of those); American Airlines could lay off and furlough as many as 19,000 workers; and Delta is preparing to furlough nearly 2,000 pilots.
|UAL||UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS||56.52||+0.26||+0.46%|
|AAL||AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP, INC.||23.53||+0.07||+0.30%|
|DAL||DELTA AIR LINES INC.||46.50||+0.22||+0.48%|
|LUV||SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO.||57.57||+0.07||+0.12%|
Airlines are required to inform employees of mass layoffs 60 to 90 days ahead of time.
An impasse between White House officials and Democratic leaders over what to include in another aid package has continued to persist more than one month after negotiations first collapsed, imperiling the chances of a stimulus deal before the November election.
One of the biggest points of contention is the package's cost: Democrats have offered to come down $1 trillion from the roughly $3 trillion HEROES Act, which the House passed in May. But the White House and Republican leaders want to keep the price tag closer to $1 trillion amid growing concerns over the nation's ballooning deficit.
More fiscal aid for airlines has garnered support among some Republicans and Democrats. At the end of July, a majority of House lawmakers penned a letter calling for a six-month extension of the payroll support program for airlines.
“Without an extension of the [Payroll Support Program] before then, hundreds of thousands of airline workers will be fired or furloughed on October 1,” the lawmakers wrote. The letter, spearheaded by House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., was signed by 223 House members, including 195 Democrats and 28 Republicans.
Air travel plunged 95% between March and mid-April, when the COVID-19 crisis brought the nation's economy to a grinding halt. It's started a tepid recovery since then, but remains well below pre-pandemic levels.
"The pandemic has drawn us in deeper and lasted longer than almost any expert predicted, and in an environment where travel demand is so depressed, United cannot continue with staffing levels that significantly exceed the schedule we fly," a memo from United to its employees said. "Sadly, we don’t expect demand to return to anything resembling normal until there is a widely available treatment or vaccine."
The Trump administration has said it would consider an executive action to prevent airline furloughs, but it's unclear what that would entail.