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United Airlines Chief Executive “Hopeful” of Second $32 Billion Federal Bailout

United Airlines Chief Executive “Hopeful” of Second $32 Billion Federal Bailout

United Airlines chief executive Scott Kirby has told staffers that he is hopeful Congress will pass a second multi-billion-dollar payroll support program that would save tens of thousands of workers from being furloughed on October 1. United accepted $5 billion in payroll support as part of the Trump Administration’s CARES Act in April but that funding is set to run out at the end of September with no bounce back for the airline industry on the horizon.

“I know October 1st is a scary date that’s looking at us, is staring us in the face. And one, I am hopeful that the CARES Act will pass… CARES 2 will pass, will extend things out by six months,” Kirby told an employee town hall last week.

United has warned that as many as 36,000 employees could be involuntarily furloughed or permanently laid-off once the provisions of the original CARES Act runs out. As many as 5,000 flight attendants, 11,000 customer service agents and 5,550 maintenance employees will be potentially made redundant and around 2,250 pilots could also be furloughed.

United Airlines has resisted openly lobbying for an extension of taxpayer-funded payroll support but the airline has been supportive of unions who have been doing exactly that. Unions, including the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), recently won the support of 223 members of Congress who have called for payroll support to be extended through the end of March 2021.

“The airline industry continues to struggle under the impact of COVID-19, with demand still only hovering around 20% of a year ago,” explained Sara Nelson, president of the flight attendant union that represents members across 19 airlines including United.

“Mass furloughs and layoffs will be a greater cost to the public and that’s just not an option… Without an extension of this program, tens of thousands of aviation workers could find themselves on the unemployment line this fall, causing potentially catastrophic consequences to this industry and our broader economy” she continued.

The CARES Act 2.0 as it’s been dubbed is currently being debated by Congress but doesn’t currently have an aviation payroll support program written into it like the original. There is, though, clear support from the House to extend funding for at least another six months and increasing hope that October won’t herald in mass airline layoffs.

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