Expiration of CARES Act Means Loss of Airline Jobs

The White House may invoke executive action to prevent more airline failures as congress stalls on passage of stimulus bill

American and United airlines say they could be forced to lay off 32,000 workers combined unless Congress approves additional federal funding.

In March, the CARES Act relieved the airline industry with billions of dollars in federal grants and loans. It also provided temporary support for workers as the demand for travel across the world diminished due to the coronavirus pandemic. And without more funding from the federal government, the industry could suffer. 

The latest news indicates that while congress is still in a quandary, the President is ready to sign a Stimulus Executive Order, and is also prepared to resume the aviation CARES act the same way. 

Thousands of industry workers are in a difficult position as  American and United airlines say they could be forced to lay off 32,000 workers combined unless Congress approves additional federal funding. Although airlines have put in place multiple safety protocols, passenger volume is still down by 70%.  

The president and CEO of airline trade group Airlines for America, Nicholas Calio, added that massive furloughs are expected this month. “It’s the very last thing that an airline wants to do to lay off a pilot, a flight attendant, a gate agent or a machinist,” Calio said. “Our employees are highly trained, and they have to keep being certified over and over again.”

Calio says the industry was at its peak before the coronavirus, but now it is suffering from a setback he says is worse than 9/11 in terms of finances. “They told us to prepare to take a hit three times worse as 9/11; two weeks later we were bleeding $10 to $12 billion of cash a month, we’re still losing $5 dollars a month,” Calio said.

Airlines have created multiple safety measures so they can keep flying, but it may not be enough.

“The mask requirement we are enforcing rigorously, we’ve got our enhanced cleaning procedures, electrostatic fogging and cleaning, wiping down every service with EPA- approved cleaners, and we’ve got the HEPA filters onboard,” Calio said.

Yet, the number of passengers is still down by 70%, according to Airlines for America.

“International travel is still down 90%. That is a significant factor because a lot of that accounts for a lot of the profit that oftentimes subsided domestic flights,” Calio said.

Those in the airline business are hopeful that a vaccine may help, but even then, they think normalcy may be far away. “We were in the golden age of flying — we always talked about it because flying was so affordable and so accessible. It’s going to be a very different industry for a long time and that’s a fact,” Calio said.

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