WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. aviation union leader on Thursday urged Congress to extend a passenger airline payroll assistance program for a third time as demand for air travel has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Congress approved $15 billion in new payroll assistance in December after awarding $25 billion in March to the sector.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), representing workers at 17 airlines, said on Twitter “Congress has to act fast for real relief. The emergency relief that came late in December was critical, but it was just ‘a down payment,’ a ‘bridge to real relief.'”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury began distributing the new round of payroll assistance to airlines to allow more than 32,000 aviation workers to stay in their jobs until at least March 31.
American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker said Thursday that “April 1 is approaching and demand hasn’t gotten much better… So we are definitely going to need to address this, unless demand starts to pick up. We are already talking to our unions about things we might be able to do.”
Parker said the company’s unions “are already talking to the administration in Congress about this… We would obviously be supportive of that.”
A $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal unveiled by President Joe Biden this month has $20 billion in new assistance for public transit systems, but no new money for airline payrolls.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alexandra Hudson)