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Company News

U.S. House COVID-19 aid proposal gives airlines some hope for deal this week

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - A $2.2 trillion draft bill for coronavirus aid unveiled by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives late Monday gave airlines some hope for a second bailout before tens of thousands of layoffs occur on Thursday, though tough hurdles remained.

“We remain hopeful that Congress will act swiftly before the current Payroll Support Program expires on September 30 to preserve the jobs of these flight attendants, pilots, mechanics, gate agents and others...,” CEO Nicholas Calio of trade group Airlines for America said in a statement.

Washington insiders said passage by Thursday, when an initial $25 billion that protected airline jobs through September expires, was unlikely, and the airline group did not detail the congressional action it hoped to see.

An option would be a quick standalone bill for the airlines, though senior Democratic congressional aides said that is also difficult given that many industries are seeking help.

International President of Flight Attendants-CWA Sara Nelson called the proposal, which includes $25 billion for airlines to keep workers on payroll for another six months, “a significant and serious move in negotiations.”

“It makes agreement on a full relief bill very possible in time to save our jobs,” she said.

Between United Airlines and American Airlines alone, more than 30,000 employees will be furloughed on Thursday, and tens of thousands more at those airlines and others have agreed to voluntary leave as the sector battles a deep downturn in demand.

The House bill would provide $28.3 billion for the aviation sector, including $25 billion for passenger airlines and $3 billion for cargo carriers, under the same terms as the first package in March.

The measure would provide $13.5 billion to airports as well as aid for other sectors, including $120 billion to restaurants.

It would also direct $75 million to ensure scheduled passenger air service to small communities. (Reporting by Tracy Rucinski and David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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