By Lisa Lambert and David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will meet with major airline chief executives on Thursday as the industry braces for thousands of layoffs in two weeks, and he urged lawmakers to embrace a $1.5 trillion coronavirus aid package proposed by a bipartisan congressional group and embraced by President Donald Trump.
“I’m meeting with airline CEOs today. We’ve got tens of thousands of people that are about to be laid off,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “So if nothing more, let’s go ahead and put that package on the floor and pass that. Because hopefully all of us can agree that laying off airline workers at this particular time is not something we should do.”
The meeting, set for Thursday morning, was organized by the airlines’ main lobbying group, Airlines for America, which includes American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, two airline officials briefed on the matter said.
Airlines do not plan to offer a new proposal but will again be making the case that helping to avert airline job cuts is one good reason to pass a broad coronavirus relief bill.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow later told reporters that airlines have already received “quite a bit” of federal funds.
“We have indicated down through the months airline problems would get that,” Kudlow said when asked about targeted relief for the companies.
At the end of this month the $25 billion in federal payroll assistance airlines received when the deadly COVID-19 first began spreading across the country and around the world is set to expire.
Congress also set aside another $25 billion in government loans for airlines, but many have opted not to tap that funding source.
Companies such as American are now pleading for a six-month extension while they simultaneously negotiate with employees to minimize thousands of job cuts that are expected without another round of aid.
Air travel has plummeted over the last six months as the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 196,000 American lives and prompted many to avoid airports and planes. With a major revenue plunge, airlines have had to turn to the federal government for help in saving jobs.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)