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An American Airlines agent checks in travelers during the Covid-19 pandemic at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: Patrick Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

American Airlines and United Airlines are expected to recall some 32,000 workers furloughed in October after Congress approved a new round of federal aid, as expected.

Why it matters: Airline workers again scored a special carve-out in Congress' latest coronavirus relief package by arguing that aviation — and the role airlines will play in delivering COVID-19 vaccines — is essential to the U.S. and its economy.

Driving the news: After months of negotiations, Congress passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package and $1.4 trillion government spending bill late Monday.

  • President Trump was expected to sign it soon.

Details: The package includes $15 billion for airlines to extend the payroll support program, which expired Sept. 30, plus $1 billion for related airline contractors.

  • It would enable the airline industry to recall tens of thousands of jobs that disappeared when air travel collapsed during the pandemic.
  • In a letter to employees, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said workers' pay and benefits would be retroactive to Dec. 1.
  • "And, if passed into law quickly, we should be able to get everyone a paycheck on Christmas Eve," he said in a video message.

The catch: Restored jobs could only be temporary if air travel doesn't pick up again by March 31, when the renewed aid expires, warned United CEO Scott Kirby in a message to his employees.

  • "We don't expect customer demand to change much between now and the end of the first quarter of 2021," he wrote.
  • "The truth is, we just don't see anything in the data that shows a huge difference in bookings over the next few months. That is why we expect the recall will be temporary."
  • "Even though vaccinations have started and there are millions of doses being distributed around the country, we're still months and months away from the majority of the population getting vaccinated."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the passage of the coronavirus relief package and spending measure in Congress.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jan 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's COVID package also progressive wish list

President-elect Joe Biden. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste — and President-elect Joe Biden, emboldened by Democratic Senate victories in Georgia, signaled in his speech Thursday night he has no intention of wasting this one.

Why it matters: The president-elect rolled out a $1.9 trillion package headlined for its coronavirus relief but including billions in spending for cybersecurity, transit, wages, health care and other progressive programs.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

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