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Strategic Policy

Statement from A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio on the CARES Act

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2020 – On behalf of 750,000 U.S. airline employees and our nation’s airlines, we applaud the Administration and the U.S. Congress for reaching agreement on bipartisan legislation intended to assist the U.S. airline industry in continuing to make payroll and protect the jobs of hardworking men and women despite devastating impacts to the industry in recent weeks.

We appreciate the unwavering leadership that President Trump and Vice President Pence have provided during the current novel coronavirus pandemic; Leader McConnell who guided the Senate to consensus and ultimate passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; Leader Schumer who took the lead to work with airlines on difficult issues to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs; Secretary Mnuchin who understood the value of investing in our American workforce and skillfully brokered agreement among the multiple interests involved; Secretary Chao who consistently demonstrated her knowledge and full dedication to strengthening our nation’s transportation infrastructure, especially aviation; and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Wicker whose understanding of the industry and steadfast guidance was instrumental in producing the legislation.

The Direct Payroll Assistance provisions in the legislation are designed to provide immediate financial relief that is necessary to continue funding the payrolls of U.S. airlines. During the current health crisis, air carriers have been doing everything possible to protect the 750,000 jobs of men and women who are directly employed by U.S. airlines – including pilots, flight attendants, gate agents and mechanics – as well as the 10 million jobs supported by the industry. Our employees are the backbone of the industry and our greatest resource. U.S. airline employees wrote more than 450,000 letters to Congress communicating the value of their jobs and requesting immediate federal assistance to protect those jobs. We remain hopeful that the federal government will expeditiously release these funds with as few restrictions as possible to ensure airlines are able to utilize these provisions and meet our payroll.

Before this global emergency, U.S. airlines were transporting a record 2.5 million passengers and 58,000 tons of cargo each day. Today, carriers are burning through cash as cancellations far outpace new bookings for U.S. carriers, planes are only 10-20 percent full and new bookings are showing 80-90 percent declines in traffic even as airlines make dramatic cuts in capacity. This week, TSA screened just 454,000 passengers on Sunday; 331,000 on Monday; 279,000 on Tuesday; and 239,000 on Wednesday. This situation is getting worse each day with no end in sight.

The impact of government- and business-imposed travel restrictions and public fear have devastated the U.S. airline industry, our employees, travelers and the shipping public. Since the beginning of March, U.S. air carriers – both passenger and cargo – have seen their positions of strong financial health deteriorate at an unprecedented and unsustainable pace. The human, financial and operational impacts are devastating, and the future remains uncertain.

Finally, we want to sincerely thank all of the administration and congressional staff who worked long hours, at risk, to produce this legislation. They have made a lasting contribution.

We encourage the House to approve this legislation swiftly and send it to the President to begin our country’s economic recovery.

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