Mar 16, 2020 - Health

Trump vows to help airlines slammed by the coronavirus outbreak

A United airplane sits at a gate surrounded by baggage carts

A United Airlines plane sits parked at a gate at San Francisco International Airport. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President Trump on Monday vowed to "backstop" airlines that have been hurt by the rapid plunge in air travel bookings amid the coronavirus outbreak, saying, "It's not their fault."

The big picture: U.S. airlines are in talks with the government on a variety of financial assistance measures, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing people briefed on the discussions.

What's happening: U.S. passenger and cargo airlines are seeking at least $58 billion in government aid to survive the coronavirus shock that is quickly proving to be more damaging than the 9/11 attacks.

  • The aid being sought is more than three times the size of the industry's bailout after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Between the lines: Airlines for America, an industry trade group, on Monday released its proposal for a combination of government-backed loans, cash grants and tax relief.

  • Passenger airlines: $25 billion in immediate cash relief, plus $25 billion in government-backed loans.
  • Cargo airlines: $4 billion in cash grants, plus $4 billion in loans.
  • Tax relief: rebates on taxes for everything from airport usage to tickets, cargo and fuel.

The fallout so far: Airlines are slashing routes and laying off employees to cope with the decline.

  • United Airlines said it would cut its flight schedules in half in April and May and is in talks with its unions about steps that could include furloughs, pay cuts or other measures to reduce payroll expenses.
  • Delta and American Airlines also announced drastic cutbacks.
  • International carriers are really struggling.
    • Norwegian Air and Scandinavian airline SAS are among those halting most of their flights.

Flashback: After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the government made $5 billion in direct payments and up to $10 billion in government loans to airlines.

The bottom line, says Trump: "We're going to back the airlines 100%."

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