Airlines, labor unions seek more federal aid with travel demand still low
Association of Flight Attendants International President Sara Nelson, along with airline executives, union colleagues and political leaders, urges Congress to extend the wage and salary support program during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on September 22, 2020 Adopt Payroll To Save Thousands Of Jobs Washington, DC
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Some airline executives and unions are seeking a third round of billions in federal aid as tens of thousands of workers go back on vacation and demand for travel remains depressed amid the Covid pandemic.
The current $ 15 billion bailout expires on April 1, and American Airlines and United Airlines warned last week that they could cut a total of 27,000 jobs. With these funds, the airlines had to recall workers who were on leave in the autumn and keep their current jobs.
“Basic workers have lived with incredible chaos and insecurity. The vacation days are noticeable to the entire workforce,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the country’s largest flight attendants union, in a written testimony at a house hearing Thursday about transportation during the pandemic. “A continuation of [payroll support] I can not wait any longer. “
Congress provided $ 25 billion in aid to keep employees on the payroll at the start of the crisis last year, which required them to keep their jobs until October 1. A $ 15 billion aid package was passed in December under the latest coronavirus relief act, with the same terms through March 31. Airlines and unions now want another $ 15 billion to guarantee jobs through September 30th.
The $ 1.9 billion coronavirus aid package proposed by President Joe Biden doesn’t include additional aid to airlines, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Congress could consider changes in the coming days. Lawmakers such as Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., And Rep. Rodney Davis R-Ill. On Thursday they expressed their support for another federal airline.
The AFA union said it was confident the Biden administration and Congress would support the added relief to the industry.
“We are fully behind our union leaders’ efforts to fight for an extension and we will use our time and energy to support that effort in any way we can,” said Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines and Robert Isom, president , in an employee statement announcing 13,000 holiday warnings on Wednesday. “Our nation’s leaders know the vital role the airline’s staff play in keeping the country moving. They showed their support last year, and we will encourage them to do the same again while the pandemic rises all over the world. “
Last week United Airlines announced to staff that they “are continuing to monitor demand and advocate for continued government support, and we are all working hard on the day we can bring our employees back on permanent leave”.
The demand for travel is still weak. U.S. airlines lost a record $ 34 billion in 2020 and have warned that if they adhere to new travel restrictions and testing requirements, they can expect a rocky start to 2021.
Since last month, the US has been requiring proof of negative Covid tests in order to board flights to the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now trying “actively” to make Covid tests mandatory for domestic travel, something the industry vehemently rejects.
Nelson, of the AFA, said at the hearing on Thursday that the testing requirement and lack of government assistance to airline employees could trigger bankruptcies and additional downsizing.
When asked whether the industry should get a third round of federal aid, Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue Airways, told CNBC on Monday that the travel and hospitality sector is one of the hardest hit parts of the economy and needs support.
“I think it is right and natural that specific support should be given here,” said Hayes.