United Airlines on Friday sent a letter to Congress, all but begging the leadership for a six-month extension of the CARES Act federal aid grants and loans, as well as to restart the negotiations for the stimulus package as soon as possible.
The letter was signed by United CEO Scott Kirby and five of the airline's biggest unions.
United and all domestic carriers are facing an Oct. 1 deadline when they are allowed to conduct layoffs. Without another stimulus package, up to 70,000 aviation workers could be let go.
The letter was addressed to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
"On behalf of the 87,000 aviation professionals of United Airlines, we are joining together to respectfully urge a restart of critical negotiations on Covid-19 legislation to include a clean 6-month extension of the very successful Payroll Support Program (PSP) for airline employees. Without additional funding for the PSP grants, up to 16,000 members of the United family are at risk of involuntary furloughs beginning October 1st," Kirby wrote. "Continuation of this critical program would prevent the furloughs and provide additional time for the industry to reach recovery without losing our colleagues to involuntary furloughs."
Kirby noted that airline officials didn't expect the crisis to last as long as it has. While he was appreciative for the original grants and loans back in March, he stressed that a second round was needed.
"We recognize the severe impact the virus is having on our entire economy and the need for support touches many other individuals, organizations and programs. Assistance now can help to lessen the long-term impact to the economy and ultimately speed recovery," Kirby wrote. "The sooner Congress and the Administration can come together again and reach an agreement, the better United and the entire industry's chances of keeping employees and returning the economic benefits we provide for the larger economy."
Kirby stressed that through the remainder of the third quarter of 2020, passenger demand expects to be down over 70 percent and revenue down 85 percent from 2019 levels. To survive the crisis with such low demand, United has also billions of dollars in the private capital markets. In the midst of these unprecedented, dire circumstances, Kirby wrote, United has continued to serve more than 99% of the domestic markets that we served before the pandemic.
"As company and union leaders at United, we have worked together to reach important agreements to
reduce the impact on employees as much as possible but without additional government support, involuntary furloughs will be unavoidable," he wrote. "Getting through this crisis will continue to require cooperation and sacrifice from everyone. We respectfully urge an urgent return to negotiations and an agreement for aviation workers and the larger economy."
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