US airlines urge government protections on payroll

Reuters has reported US airlines have appealed to the government for a stimulus package to help them weather the coronavirus crisis by providing payroll protections, warning that around 750,000 jobs depend on the airline industry, the news source said.

FILE PHOTO: Planes are seen parked at gates at San Francisco International Airport, as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) disruption continues its spread across the global industry, in San Francisco, California, US.

A Republican proposal introduced in the US Senate would grant up to USD 50 billion in secured loans, but bars the cash grants the airlines had requested, spurring intense discussions between airlines, unions and congressional aides over the shape of the aid.

United Airlines Holdings Inc (UAL.O) and American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) displayed a united front with their unions, together asking employees to write letters to Congress urging action.

Chicago-based United warned that without sufficient government support by the end of March, it would have to start cutting its payroll to match a 60% schedule reduction planned for April

Airlines have already raised capital, suspended share buybacks, cut executive pay, slashed flights and grounded jets to reduce costs and preserve cash during a steep erosion in air travel demand.

Union groups continue to lobby for any stimulus package to guarantee protections for frontline employees. To protect workers, Association of Flight Attendants is pushing for direct payroll subsidies for employees, ranging from wheelchair assistants and gate agents to mechanics and flight attendants.