Sep 18, 2020 - Economy & Business

United Airlines asks Congress, Trump to restart talks on airline aid

A closed united airlines kiosk

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

United Airlines' CEO Scott Kirby and union leaders asked Congress and the White House in a letter on Friday to restart talks on coronavirus aid, warning that United may be forced to furlough as many as 16,000 employees starting Oct. 1 if the current aid package is not extended.

The state of play: The federal government's payroll support program for airlines is set to expire on Sept. 30. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in a meeting with airline executives on Thursday said President Trump would support a $25 billion extension to Congress' current aid package.

  • But Congress has failed in recent weeks to pass further coronavirus stimulus, including a standstill on the latest bill.

The big picture: Social distancing and quarantines during the coronavirus pandemic have decimated the air travel industry. U.S. passenger volumes are running 65% behind this point last year, according to Airlines for America.

  • But airlines are desperately trying to win customers back, Axios' Joann Muller notes, including strictly enforcing mask wearing on flights and eliminating some fees.

What they're saying: "The aviation industry is a critical driver of the larger economy, moving people and goods for business and pleasure; connecting communities of all sizes to the world and supporting good-paying professional careers for hundreds of thousands of Americans," the letter, obtained by Politico, reads.

  • "The sooner Congress and the Administration can come together again and reach an agreement, the better United and the entire industry’s chances of keeping employees and returning the economic benefits we provide for the larger economy."
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