BEIJING, March 21 (Reuters) – U.S. airlines on Friday called on the government to adopt an economic stimulus package aimed at helping airlines weather the new coronavirus crisis by providing pay protections, and airlines warned that about 750,000 jobs would depend on the airline industry.
A Republican proposal by the U.S. Senate on Thursday would approve up to $50 billion in guaranteed loans, but ban cash aid previously requested by airlines, sparking heated debate among airlines, unions and congressional aides over the form of the aid.
“Loans alone are not enough and should be combined with workers’ pay assistance programs and targeted tax breaks that will help airlines continue to operate in this crisis,” the AAA said in a statement. “
United and American Airlines, which are on the united front with unions, have asked employees to write to Congress urging action.
United warned that if it did not get enough government support by the end of March, it would have to start cutting wages to meet a plan to cut costs by 60 percent in April, saying “time is running out”.
U.S. airlines have taken a number of steps, such as raising capital, suspending share buybacks, slashing executive pay, slashing flights and grounding flights to cut costs and maintain cash flow during a sharp drop in air travel demand.
But even with these “self-help measures,” Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian said Friday that Delta is consuming $50 million in cash a day. Delta Air Lines expects revenue to fall by $10 billion in the second quarter from a year earlier.
U.S. President Donald Trump has previously said he is ready to support the airline industry, but some critics have vehemently rejected the idea of an emergency financial bailout, arguing that airlines should save more cash in trouble rather than reward shareholders.
At the same time, union organizations continue to lobby for possible stimulus packages to ensure protection for front-line workers.