U.S. airlines are requesting more than $50 billion in government assistance as the industry struggles as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, an airline lobbying group said Monday.
The industry lobbing group Airlines for America is requesting that passenger and freight carriers receive a bailout that includes up to $25 billion in grants and another $25 billion in low or zero-interest loans.
“The economic impact on U.S. airlines, their employees, travelers and the shipping public is staggering. This crisis hit a previously robust, healthy industry at lightning speed and we remain concerned that the impacts of this crisis will continue to worsen,” the group said in a statement Monday.
“U.S. carriers are in need of immediate assistance as the current economic environment is simply not sustainable.”
The group, which represents some of the country’s largest passenger and cargo carriers, also asked for additional tax relief in an online document outlining its request.
For passenger carriers, the group is seeking grants of $25 billion to “compensate for reduced liquidity (net of financing) – from Dec. 31, 2019 through Dec. 31, 2020,” according to the document.
Airlines for America is further asking for $4 billion in grants for cargo carriers, and for zero-interest unsecured loans in the amount of $25 billion for both passenger and cargo carriers.
“U.S. airlines take great pride in the 750,000 men and women they directly employ — from pilots, flight attendants, to reservation agents and mechanics. Each U.S. carrier is having direct and continuous conversations with their employees, and everyone understands the severity of the situation,” the document read.
“The current economic environment is simply not sustainable, and it is compounded by the fact that the crisis does not appear to have an end in sight.”
The lobbying group represents 10 U.S. passenger and cargo airlines, including United, American, Southwest and Delta, in addition to cargo carriers UPS and FedEx.
There has also been speculation that domestic travel could be temporarily suspended or restricted to and from some regions of the country.
As a result, the country’s largest carriers have found themselves in a dire situation ahead of the industry’s peak travel season.
“In the short space of two weeks, U.S. airlines have seen their positions of strong financial health deteriorate remarkably rapidly,” the lobbying group said in an outline of its requests, according to CNBC.
“The downturn in demand for commercial air transportation related to COVID-19 is causing unprecedented harm to the U.S. airline industry.”
President Donald Trump has vowed to stand by the airline industry.
During Monday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, the president said the government would answer the industry’s call for assistance.
“We’re going to back the airlines 100 percent − it’s not their fault,” he said. “It’s nobody’s fault.”
“We’re going to be backstopping the airlines and helping them very much,” Trump added. “We have to back the airlines.”
Airlines for America says that it “advocates on behalf of the leading U.S. airlines, both passenger and cargo carriers,” in addition to working “collaboratively with industry stakeholders, federal agencies, the Administration, Congress, labor and other groups to improve aviation for the traveling and shipping public.”
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