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Photo: Joshua Lott/AFP via Getty Images

United Airlines said Monday that it secured a $5 billion loan using its MileagePlus loyalty program as collateral and has other assets to pledge if it decides to tap another $4.5 billion from taxpayers to weather the coronavirus crisis.

Why it matters: While officials at the Chicago-based airline said there's early evidence of a modest rebound in air travel, their goal is to build a $17 billion cash cushion by the end of the third quarter — three times their normal liquidity balance.

Details: The MileagePlus loyalty program is one of United's most valuable assets, spinning off $5.3 billion in cash and $1.8 billion in EBITDA profit each year, and is worth an estimated $20 billion, according to company officials.

  • The revenue comes as consumers redeem frequent-flier miles for trips, credit card purchases, hotels, car rentals and other items from United's non-airline partners.
  • While some bankrupt airlines have used their frequent-flier programs as collateral to obtain financing in the past, United said its deal is uniquely structured so it will not give up any operating control — or equity — to its lenders.
  • Goldman Sachs, Barclays Bank and Morgan Stanley are providing the loan.

What to watch: United says it has other collateral such as airport gates, slots and routes to secure a future $4.5 billion Treasury loan, should it need to under the CARES Act.

Go deeper

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

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.

Mike Allen, author of AM
43 mins ago - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.

The Exvangelicals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Even as evangelicals maintain their position as the most popular religion in the U.S., a movement of self-described "exvangelicals" is breaking away, using social media to engage tens of thousands of former faithful.

The big picture: Donald Trump's presidency, as well as movements around LGBTQ rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, drew more Americans into evangelical churches while also pushing some existing members away.