Airline industry groups scold Congress for refusing to compromise on new stimulus deal

The airline industry says jobs are being held hostage while the House and Senate leaders bicker over the terms of a new aid package.

In a letter published Wednesday, a dozen industry trade groups and unions  said they all agree that a standalone deal is necessary and urged the majority and minority leaders of both legislative bodies to reconcile their differences as soon as possible.

“There continues to be strong, broad, and bipartisan willingness to protect jobs and livelihoods in the airline industry by extending the successful Payroll Support Program (PSP), which was part of the CARES Act,” read the letter, which was signed by Airlines for America, which represents the carriers, and unions representing pilots, flight attendants and other front-line workers.

Time is running out: The House adjourned last week without passing a comprehensive new stimulus bill and the Senate is scheduled to leave town Friday. Neither is due back for until mid-November.

“Both the Senate and the House have introduced bills that would protect airline jobs and air service through an extension of the PSP. Overwhelming majorities in both chambers support doing so,” the letter continued. “Notably, leadership in both chambers have already taken steps to advance the legislation. During circumstances as dire and significant as these, an idea that enjoys resounding support from majorities in both parties and in both houses of Congress should not fail.”

The House voted mostly along party lines late last week to approve a Democratic-backed $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, which includes another $25 billion in support for airlines, but it was unlikely to be taken up by the Senate.

The airline industry had hoped a deal would come before the Payroll Support Program expired on Sept. 30 so that it wouldn’t have to go through with layoffs. When that didn’t happen, American proceeded with the furlough of 19,000 workers and United furloughed another 13,000. Both promised to recall affected workers if a new deal came through shortly after Oct. 1. 

But one failed to materialize and hope deflated after President Trump shut down negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week, declaring in a tweet that there would be no deal until after the election. He told Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to switch his focus to confirming his Supreme Court nominee,  Amy Coney Barrett.

Since then, he has softened his tone: Late Tuesday night, he tweeted that he would be willing to sign a $25 billion standalone airline aid package as soon as Congress gives him one.

The letter closed by reminding Congressional leaders what is at stake.

“With tens of thousands of jobs on the line, not to mention air service to communities across the country, we simply will not rest until we pursue every available option to its fullest extent,” it read. “Until then, we remain hopeful that you and your colleagues can work quickly and collaboratively to ensure airlines and the workers they employ are in a ready position to enable our nation’s recovery from the pandemic.”

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