Airlines Get $15 Billion Payroll Reimbursement in Funding Deal

The pandemic aid package negotiated by Congressional leaders includes $15 billion to reinstate payroll reimbursements to airlines that expired two months ago, according to two people familiar with the legislation.

The legislation is similar to provisions in an earlier pandemic aid package that expired on Oct. 1, which barred layoffs and came with other restrictions.

The tentative agreement reached Sunday also includes $1 billion for airline contractor payrolls, $10 billion for state highways, $2 billion for airports and airport concessionaires, $2 billion for the private motor coach, school bus, and ferry industries, and $1 billion for Amtrak.

Another $14 billion is targeted at transit agencies to keep services running for essential workers and others who use rail, bus, paratransit and other forms of mass transportation, according to one Democratic aide.

The omnibus spending package being used to move the relief money will also include provisions to reform the way aircraft are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to another person. The House is expected to vote on the package on Monday, followed by the Senate.

The House passed a Federal Aviation Administration safety measure this year prompted by the grounding of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max, but a similar attempt in the Senate hasn’t won approval. By wrapping a compromise version of the bills into the must-pass budget and relief packages, it can become law this year.

Carriers will attempt to bring workers back, though the period without aid has made it challenging, the trade group Airlines for America said last week as negotiations on the aid package were underway.

Airline Losses

Airlines are losing billions of dollars as a result of a steep drop in travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Passenger counts fell after a brief uptick around the Thanksgiving holiday, but are rebounding somewhat as the Christmas holiday period begins, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Over the past seven days, airlines carried about 35% of the number of passengers during the equivalent week last year, the lowest year-over-year comparison since September, according to TSA data.

While lawmakers from both parties have called for more aviation support for months, attempts to extend the program foundered as long as Congressional leaders couldn’t agree on provisions for a broader relief bill.

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