American Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid

American Airlines urged the Trump administration and congressional leadership to extend the relief the airline industry received in March to help offset the effects of the coronavirus pandemic by six months to avoid massive layoffs. 

American CEO Doug Parker and airline industry unions asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and House and Senate leadership in a letter on Wednesday to “find a way to work together” to reach an agreement on the next relief package that includes an extension.

The CARES Act, signed into law in late March, included the Payroll Support Program (PSP) for airlines, which meant aid recipients were prohibited from firing or laying off employees until Oct. 1. At that point, American Airlines expects to cut 19,000 jobs.

“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, and several markets in our domestic network are at risk of significant reductions in air service,” the groups, including the Allied Pilots Association and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, wrote. Other unions on the letter included the Transport Workers Union, Communications Workers of America, and the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers.

They said that the PSP has gone directly to salaries and benefits since March and the investment from the federal government has paid off.

“The dire circumstances we face now — massive furloughs and reductions in air service — are exactly the circumstances the PSP was designed to guard against, which explains why a six-month extension of the program enjoys overwhelming support from a broad coalition of Republicans and Democrats in both chambers,” they wrote.

Senate Democrats last week blocked a GOP coronavirus relief bill, following a weeks-long stalemate on negotiations to get a deal on a fifth coronavirus relief package.

Tags Airline industry Allied Pilots Association American Airlines CARES Act Communications Workers of America coronavirus aid Mark Meadows Steven Mnuchin

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