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 How Two Year-End Spending Bills Affect U.S. Airlines

 How Two Year-End Spending Bills Affect U.S. Airlines
Joe Cortez

Late into Sunday night, Congressional leaders came together to iron out the details of the $900 billion phase four COVID-19 relief package. While the bill offers $15 billon to airlines to re-hire furloughed employees, a companion bill would new safety requirements on the FAA when certifying new commercial aircraft.

Two bills are currently working their way through the halls of Congress, each having a major effect on the aviation industry in the short term and potentially for years to come. While a phase four $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill will give the industry the funding they have been campaigning for, an omnibus spending bill would give the Federal Aviation Administration more authority over commercial aircraft certification.

$15 Billion Guaranteed to Airlines to Re-Hire Furloughed Employees

The first of the two bills is the phase four COVID-19 stimulus, with multiple attempts at passing in various forms since the end of Summer 2020. According to Reuters, at least $15 billion of the $900 billion package will go to U.S. based airlines.

Under the plan, aviation workers who were released by the airlines would receive pay from Dec. 1, 2020, while airlines will have to resume otherwise grounded flights. Airlines who accept a second round of government assistance would be required to hold off on additional furloughs until Mar. 31, 2021.

Immediately, airlines were quick to express their support to lawmakers, for granting the additional funding. In an open letter to employees, United Airlines executives Scott Kirby and Brett Hart announced they “intend to offer temporary employment to thousands of our team members who were impacted on September 30.” However, the two tempered their expectations for the employment to extend into April, citing depressed demand for air travel.

American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker expressed his thanks for the additional funding in a video posted to his LinkedIn account:

 

FAA Gets More Oversight on Approving Boeing Aircraft

While the additional funds will help airline employees collect a paycheck for at least three more months, another spending bill will give the Federal Aviation Administration more oversight when approving new commercial aircraft. The Seattle Times reports the latest omnibus spending bill will allow the FAA more authority to their employees.

Under the text of the bill, Boeing will still be allowed to self-certify their safety work on future airframes, including the upcoming 777X program. However, the law would allow FAA engineers to directly oversee Boeing’s work, in order to ensure the aircraft conforms to all safety standards and norms.

The new legislation comes after Boeing reported additional flaws in their recent 787 Dreamliner airframes. In the self-reported issue, rough spots in the composite body could lead to increased aging and unnecessary wear on the aircraft, requiring expensive repairs. Both Boeing and the FAA said the issue is not a safety hazard for flyers.

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