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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."

Go deeper

Dec 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pelosi on Trump's call to increase stimulus payments: "Let's do it!"

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

House Democrats responded to President Trump's call to increase stimulus payments to $2,000 per adult by saying they're ready to bring the measure to the floor by "unanimous consent" this week.

Driving the news: Trump indicated in a video Tuesday evening that he won't sign the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill and $1.4 trillion government funding measure passed by Congress if it's not amended to increase stimulus payments.

803,000 Americans file first-time jobless claims in week before Christmas

Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Labor reported 803,000 initial unemployment claims last week, a drop of 89,000 from the week prior.

Why it matters: The number of Americans on unemployment benefits remains high, though the figures released Wednesday were lower than the 888,000 that economists had expected.

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"