US Airlines Approach White House For Six Months More Funding

With the payroll funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act about to expire come October 1st, the American commercial aviation industry is quietly pushing for more money. While there is now substantial support from the House Democrats, unions are hoping that the prospect of mass layoffs ahead to the November election might sway the executive branch their way.

American and JetBlue
Major US carriers are meeting with the White House and Congress to try and secure more funding. Photo: Getty Images

“Actively engaged” carriers

Tens of thousands of US airline workers are facing layoffs in a couple of months. Therefore, airlines and their associated union groups are asking that Congress approve more funding to last another six months.

According to Dallas News, the CEO of American Airlines, Doug Parker, spent last week in Washington speaking with lawmakers and White House representatives. Southwest Airlines has also acknowledged that it is “actively engaged” with members of Congress and the executive administration on a new bill.

Delta Air Lines’ CEO Ed Bastian also said his company is in full support of a “clean extension,” meaning another six months of aid, which would entail the same restrictions on furloughs as the first.

“I think everyone in our industry is supportive,” Mr. Bastian said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

However, compared to this spring, the airlines are going about their request rather quietly. This makes sense as the perceived “bailing out” of carriers has not been positively received across the board. If the airlines are once more seen to be lobbying for more tax-payer funded aid, this could lead to more loss of goodwill.

Delta planes
Delta’s CEO believes that the entire industry is supportive of an extension. Photo: Getty Images

Substantial support from Democrats

The unions are, not surprisingly, also involved in the push for more federal funds. This week, more than 220 lawmakers in the House endorsed a new aid package – 192 Democrats and 28 Republicans. While the stance of the White House remains unclear and to all appearances unenthusiastic, the unions are hoping the upcoming election will swing a few more Republicans their way.

“There will be hundreds of thousands of aviation workers who go onto unemployment in October if we don’t extend this program,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in July according to Rollcall. “And that will be included in the last jobs report before this election.”

The AFA-CWA and the Air Line Pilots Association have joined forces with eleven other airline unions in their quest to extend funding and protect the jobs of their coworkers. The latter wrote in a letter to lawmakers, seen by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that new funding was essential,

“in order to stop preventable mass job loss and ensure pilots and other airline employees can provide the capacity the industry needs to bounce back quickly when the pandemic recedes.”

Southwest 737
Southwest is the only major US airline that will not lay off staff in October. Photo: Southwest

Large-scale layoffs looming

The CARES Act was passed in March this year and has since provided airlines in the US with $25 billion in payroll support. In return, carriers who accepted the cash were not allowed to furlough any workers through September 30th. However, in preparation for the expiration of both the money and the conditions, several airlines have offered voluntary severance packages and early retirements.

Unfortunately, this has not been nearly enough, and almost all major airlines, with the exception of Southwest, have warned their employees of large-scale layoffs by October 1st.

What do you think of the situation? Should the US Congress and White House extend the CARES Act funding to safeguard jobs in the aviation industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.