Mar 16, 2020 - Health

Trump vows to help airlines slammed by the coronavirus outbreak

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%."

Go deeper

United Airlines to cut capacity by 50% over the coronavirus

A United Airlines plane lands at San Francisco International Airport on March 6 in Burlingame, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

United Airlines said in a statement Sunday it will cut capacity by about 50% for April and May from Monday, as the airline sees a drop in demand because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The big picture: The announcement comes after Delta Airlines announced Friday it would reduce its flight capacity by 40% for the next four months over the outbreak. United said even with the cuts it announced, "we're expecting load factors to drop into the 20–30% range — and that's if things don't get worse."

Go deeper: Coronavirus rattles travelers — and airlines

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more comment from United and context.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll passes 9,600

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 9,600 in the U.S. Sunday night, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day since April 1.

Why it matters: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday this upcoming week will be "the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."

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Clyburn says House coronavirus committee won't investigate Trump

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the coronavirus committee created by Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will oversee how the $2 trillion stimulus bill is distributed during the pandemic, not the federal government's initial response to the virus.

What he's saying: "This is not about the president of the United States or even the independent counsel or the inspector general. This is about focusing on how the money is spent, whether or not the people who are getting the money are actually working on behalf of the American people, or whether or not they are profiteering."