Coronavirus: US carriers set for $60bn state aid lifeline

Washington is set to provide emergency financial support worth almost $60 billion to US carriers struggling in the face of the catastrophic coronavirus crisis.

The bailout is part of a $2 trillion Senate rescue package and comes as UK airlines continue to lobby ministers for state aid.

The $58 billion assistance for US airlines broadly matches the level the sector requested.

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Half will come in the form of grants to cover the salaries of 750,000 employees.

The bill grants $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines, and an additional $4 billion for cargo carriers.

Airlines will also receive $25 billion in grants to pay workers through September. It comes as carriers slash thier networks, with United Airlines cutting US domestic flights by 52% from Wednesday in addition to 90% of international services in April.

A separate $17 billion in loans is specified for companies “critical to maintaining national security” – thought to include Boeing.

The loans are conditional on job protection — airlines accepting aid will not be allowed to lay off or furlough workers until September 30.

The measures give the US Department of Transportation  the ability to compel airlines that take the money to maintain service to destinations they served as of the beginning of March, for the next two years.

The scheme forbids pay increases for any employee earning more than $425,000 and would cut total compensation for executives, including bonuses and stock grants.

US airports are set to receive $10 billion in grants as part of the overall package which is due to be signed off by president Trump.

The coronavirus economic stimulation package was welcomed by Chris Shelton, president of the Communication Workers of America (CWA), which represents flight attendants and passenger service agents.

He said: “CWA is pleased that the bill has been improved to ensure that the drastic reduction in airline travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic does not result in massive layoffs that would leave hundreds of thousands of workers without a paycheck.”

However, Shelton added: “We hoped that the bill would have provided protections for workers in the event that an airline declares bankruptcy and we will continue to fight for those critical protections in these uncertain economic times.

“Shame on any airline that does not take this opportunity to provide stability for its workers and their families during this time of fear and uncertainty.”

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