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Airline Leaders Go to Washington One Last Time for Additional Funding

Airline Leaders Go to Washington One Last Time for Additional Funding
Joe Cortez

The executives of three major airlines went back to the White House as a last-ditch effort to secure additional funding after the Payroll Support Program ends. With only 13 days before airlines go through with their announced furloughs, the leadership signaled the talks with government officials were productive.

The heads of three airlines made one last trip to Washington, DC, in hopes they could secure more Payroll Support Program funding to prevent letting go of over 30,000 employees. CNBC reports the chief executives of American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines spent the day meeting with White House officials, in hopes their concerns would be heard before the Oct. 1, 2020 deadline.

American and United Stand to Lose Most Without PSP

The meeting consisted of American CEO Doug Parker, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly and United CEO Scott Kirby, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – the president was not at the talks. Although both sides did not elaborate on the discussions with reporters, the airlines signaled that it was a productive talk.

“We had a very good meeting with the chief [of staff],” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told reporters, as quoted by CNBC. “The first CARES Act kept this country out of pandemic and I think the only mistake that was made is that it didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

Although it’s unclear if the leadership met with House speaker Nancy Pelosi, American CEO Doug Parker said they were also in touch with her office to continue the discussion. So far, none of the proposed “phase four” bills have moved forward in either chamber of Congress.

While Kelly has been the most outspoken of the executives about securing additional support, both American and United have the most employees to lose. Without additional Payroll Support Program funds, American is planning to furlough as many as 19,000 employees, while United could release over 16,000 workers. All of the releases would be effective Oct. 1, 2020 – the first day allowable under the original CARES Act.

The executives and union leaders are asking for an additional $25 billion in payroll support grants, which would potentially keep current employees on staff through March 2021. Although both sides and the White House have signaled that the support is needed and could be positive, a bill has yet to materialize.

Unions Continue to Campaign for Additional Support

Joining the executives in their call for additional money are the airline unions, including the Allied Pilots Association and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. According to The Hill, the unions are demanding action take place before the funds expire.

“Despite the aggressive self-help measures the company has taken to bolster its financial position, and even with several thousand of our colleagues opting for voluntary leave and early retirement, nearly 20,000 American Airlines team members are facing furloughs in just two short weeks,” the American Airlines union leaders wrote to Congress, according to the publication. “And several markets in our domestic network are at risk of significant reductions in air service.”

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