Relief may be within reach for the beleaguered airline industry, President Trump promised Thursday.
During a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, Trump said that a relief package for "some of or all of the airlines" could come as early as this weekend. He has been meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on the plan's details.
"The airline business has been hit very hard as everybody knows,” Trump said. “We are going to be in a position to do a lot to help them so that they keep their employees and they save their businesses.”
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The news comes as the coronavirus has forced airlines to furlough employees and cut back on flights across the country with billions in revenue lost.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that the Transportation Security Administration screened less than 100,000 people boarding flights, a drop of 95% from a year ago, as Americans have been forced into quarantine either through fear of catching the coronavirus or under stay-at-home orders by states attempting to mitigate the virus' spread.
Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian said on Thursday that nearly 35,000 workers had agreed to voluntary unpaid leaves of absence offered by the company in an attempt to stem costs because of the coronavirus crisis.
In a memo to employees, Bastian said the company was enhancing the benefits provided to employees while on leave and offering new longer-term leaves of up to 12 months as it continues to seek more volunteers, according to Reuters.
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President Trump pledged that airlines will be given a "very acceptable package" that will provide the relief that they desperately need.
"It will be good for our country, good for the airlines, [and] good for a lot of people”, Trump added.
The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill signed into law on March 27 provides $25 billion in grants for passenger airlines, $4 billion for cargo air carriers and $3 billion for airline contractors such as caterers. The grants are to primarily maintain payroll. Companies must guarantee that they will keep their workers employed through at least September 30 in order to qualify for the program.
According to Reuters, 275 companies have already applied for the grants.
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Thursday was a great day for airline stocks as United Airlines lead the way, up more than 14 percent, followed by Spirit up more than 12 percent, and American Airlines up more than 10 percent. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines was up more than 8 percent, Southwest was up 6 percent, Hawaiian Airlines and Jet Blue were up more than 5 percent, and Delta was up more than 4 percent.
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