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Airline execs, unions press for billions in additional aid amid Congress stimulus debate

Airline execs, unions press for billions in additional aid amid Congress stimulus debate
© DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

Unions and airline executives are calling for billions of dollars in additional aid as part of Congress’s next coronavirus relief package.

Lawmakers previously included $32 billion for the airline industry in the CARES Act in March. The aid was conditioned on airlines not implementing any pay cuts or layoffs through at least Sept. 30.

However, despite a brief spike in demand for air travel, new coronavirus outbreaks have stalled airline ticket sales. Sales were down last week 79 percent from the same period in 2019.

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Airline unions have pushed for an extension of the $32 billion in payroll aid since June, CNBC reported. While a majority in the House support an extension, it remains unclear whether the next package will contain further aid. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said Monday the carrier intends to support the measure.

American Airlines said in an employee town hall that CEO Doug Parker visited Washington last week to discuss an extension, CNBC reported.

Southwest, meanwhile, is also discussing an extension with the White House and lawmakers, CEO Gary Kelly told airline employees Friday.

“Just as before, I’m personally involved in delivering that message to our federal leaders,” Kelly said, according to CNBC. The CEO said he is pushing lawmakers to implement other measures such as liability protections for airlines and tax breaks for airline tickets.

“Without customers and places and events for them to fly to, we’ll never punch our way out of this crisis,” Kelly said, the network reported.

While Southwest has said it will not pursue worker furloughs in 2020, more than 25 percent of employees have voluntarily opted for leaves of absence or early retirement, according to CNBC. Several other carriers, among them Alaska, Spirit and Frontier airlines, have also warned in recent weeks that workers may face furloughs in the fall.