France unveils $16.9bn aid package for its aviation industry

Rescued firms will be required to invest more and faster in electric or other lower-emission aircraft, government says.

    France aims to make its aviation industry the 'cleanest in the world' [Pascal Rossignol/Reuters]
    France aims to make its aviation industry the 'cleanest in the world' [Pascal Rossignol/Reuters]

    France's government has announced 15 billion euros ($16.9bn) in rescue money for the pandemic-battered aerospace industry, including planemaker Airbus and national airline Air France.

    The ministers of finance, transport, defence and environment on Tuesday unveiled the rescue plan for an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people in France, whose livelihoods have been thrown into uncertainty by travel restrictions prompted by the virus.

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    In exchange for the aid, companies will be required to invest more, and faster, in electric, hydrogen or other lower-emission aircraft, as France aims to make its aviation industry the "cleanest in the world".

    "We will do everything to support this French industry that is so critical for our sovereignty, our jobs and our economy," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

    Rescue package

    The money includes direct government investment, subsidies, loans and loan guarantees. It also includes a special fund jointly financed by the government, Airbus, and other big manufacturers to support small suppliers.

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    It includes 7 billion euros ($7.9bn) in loans and loan guarantees that the government had already promised to Air France, whose planes were almost entirely grounded by the virus.

    Airlines around the world have sought government bailouts as they struggle to survive the near-shutdown prompted by the virus.

    Airbus said it is cutting production by up to 40 percent, and rival Boeing announced during the virus lockdown that it would cut 10 percent of its 161,000-person workforce through attrition, early-out offers and layoffs. 

    "The recovery will be long," Le Maire warned. The government predicted it would be 2023 before the industry reaches pre-crisis levels.

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    SOURCE: News agencies