Airline executives meet with White House to push for more aid to avoid job losses

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Airline executives met with President Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, at the White House on Thursday to urge the administration to extend the relief for the airline industry, which is warning of massive layoffs.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly spoke to reporters at the White House after the meeting, stressing the need for a six-month extension to the Payroll Support Program (PSP) for airlines that was included in the CARES Act in March.

Meadows told reporters after the meeting that it is “incumbent” that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) act to assist the airlines and that the White House has looked at a number of executive actions but “all of them are less than ideal.”

“There’s a few things that we could do, but I don’t know that it actually solves the problem of curtailing furloughed workers,” Meadows said.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Airlines for America CEO Nick Calio were also in the White House meeting.

“We airline CEOs are here on behalf of the people that work for us who are doing great jobs out there … they’re out there putting their uniforms on going to work every day and making sure we’re moving. Without action, they’re going to be furlough on Oct. 1 and it’s not fair. It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to our country,” Parker told reporters.

Under the terms of the CARES Act relief funding, airlines are prohibited from firing or laying off any employees until Oct. 1. The industry is now asking for a $25 billion injection to postpone any job cuts at least until April.

“There’s enormous bipartisan support for an extension of the Payroll Support Program, which would keep those people employed. And the only problem we have is we don’t have a vehicle for getting it done. We need to have a COVID relief package that includes that,” Parker said. 

Meadows noted in his conversation with reporters, “Compared to $1.5 trillion, [$25 billion is] a rather small amount of additional assistance that could potentially keep 30 to 50,000 workers on the payroll.”

Kelly called the meeting with Meadows “very good” and said the CEOs are not meeting with Trump directly.

“Chief Meadows assured us that the White House is very interested in getting something done, so we reached out to the Speaker, just encouraged two sides working together so we can save jobs and really in a broader sense save this economy,” Kelly said.

Pelosi told MSNBC on Wednesday that Democrats are planning on adding airline money to a future coronavirus relief bill.

“[The HEROES Act vote] was four months ago, May 15, many this has accelerated since then. We have additional needs for restaurants, airlines and the rest and those those things have to be taken into consideration as well,” she said.

On Oct. 1, American Airlines expects to ax 19,000 jobs, and United Airlines said it plans to cut 16,370. Southwest Airlines also warned that as many as 36,000 employees could face furloughs. 

Mike Lillis contributed to this report.

Tags Donald Trump Mark Meadows Nancy Pelosi
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