GOP senators, Trump back more aid for airlines as elections near

Republican senators support more relief aid for airlines that have warned of possible layoffs a month before elections.

US airlines jobs
Air travel is not expected to return to previous levels for several years - not until 2024, according to a trade group for global airlines [File: Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press]

A group of 16 Republican senators has endorsed giving more money to airlines to avoid layoffs right before United States elections in November, giving a boost to a lobbying effort by airlines and their unions.

In a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders, the GOP senators did not specify an amount on Wednesday, but a proposal by several airline unions would give the hard-hit aviation industry $32bn, including $25bn for passenger airlines.

Late on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump also expressed support when asked about the senators’ letter.

“We don’t want to lose our airlines so if they’re looking at that, whether they’re Republican or Democrat, I’d be certainly in favour,” Trump said at a White House briefing.

Airline stocks rose. American Airlines, viewed as the most financially troubled among the major airlines, gained the most, closing up 9.5 percent.

The senators said they support relief because air travel remains depressed and several airlines have warned of possible job cuts on October 1, when a prohibition on airline layoffs expires. They said Congress should also consider more help for airport concessionaires and aircraft manufacturers.

In March, aviation companies got $32bn to help cover payroll costs for six months in exchange for not laying off workers.

Nine of the 16 GOP senators who signed the letter are up for re-election in November and could be hurt by headlines about thousands of airline furloughs the month before voters go to the polls on November 3.

Some of those senators face difficult re-election races, including Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado. Others represent states with large numbers of airline workers, such as John Cornyn of Texas.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky made no provision for airline workers in his $1 trillion proposal for additional virus relief. A spokesman for McConnell had no comment.

A majority in the House, including more than two dozen Republicans, have endorsed the spending. The Treasury Department has so far declined to comment on the Trump administration’s position.

No US legislators have spoken out against the airline provision, although aides said some object to helping workers in one industry when there are millions of other workers who have already lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Air travel is not expected to return to previous levels for several years –  not until 2024, according to a trade group for global airlines –  leading some industry observers to say airlines should be allowed to shrink to match lower demand, even if it means fewer jobs.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, responded by saying the airline provision was the most successful jobs programme in the $2.2-trillion virus-relief measure approved in March. The bill maintained air service to cities that had flights before the pandemic.

Source: News Agencies