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Airlines for America (A4A) president Nicholas Calio on Tuesday sent a letter to Congress defending the industry's delays and cancellations this year following much scrutiny from lawmakers.
A4A, the top lobby group for U.S. airlines, was responding to an inquiry from House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the committee's ranking member.
The committee, as well as other members of the House and the Senate, has expressed concern as to how the $54 billion in federal grants and loans to combat the pandemic was spent in the wake of an unprecedented amount of cancellations due to, among other things, staffing shortages.
In his letter, Calio said that the government aid known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) didn't cover everything. The A4A president said the grants and loans covered 77 percent of payroll costs, forcing carriers to still make staffing adjustments.
Calio said he and the airlines were appreciative of the government support but defended the industry and said the $54 billion was used correctly and saved more than 750,000 aviation jobs.
"Without (PPP), U.S. airlines would have been forced to implement massive layoffs, dramatically reduce service and cancel fleet orders," Calio wrote, as reported by the Washington D.C.-based publication The Hill. "If all of those employees had been furloughed, airlines would not have been able to meet the unprecedented demand surge that occurred this summer and has continued into this fall."
Lawmakers nonetheless are asking for an accounting of how the money was spent, and several airline CEOs have been summoned to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on December 15.
"Unfortunately, the depth and duration of the airlines' financial crisis combined with the temporary lapse in PSP funding in late 2020 forced several airlines to reduce payroll through a combination of layoffs during that two-month period as well as voluntary leaves of absence, early retirements and other forms of separation," Calio wrote.
Rich Thomaselli has written for TravelPulse since 2014 and has been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. His work has...
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