After the US House moved a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill to the desk of President Joe Biden on Wednesday, airlines began informing employees on Wednesday that they will be able to avoid layoffs.
In the last year, air travel has been cut by more than 50% at the nation’s airports as public health officials have recommended that Americans avoid non-essential travel. The airline and travel industry is not expected to fully recover anytime soon as the CDC recommended earlier this week that even those fully vaccinated against the coronavirus avoid non-essential travel.
The legislation includes $14 billion for airlines through the Payroll Support Program. The stimulus bill stipulates that the money can only be used for the pay and benefits of airline workers. By accepting stimulus funds, airlines agree not to furlough or layoff employees through Sept. 30.
The Association of Flight Attendants welcomed Wednesday’s vote.
“This program is a testament to the power of working people acting in solidarity,” said union President Sara Nelson. “At the beginning of the crisis, we asked ourselves, ‘What do workers need?’ We didn’t allow what was ‘possible’ to constrain our demands. Our union has been through a crisis before, and we knew we had to prevent this crisis from being put on our backs. Aviation workers came together through our unions, found common ground with airlines, and worked with allies in Congress to pass this critical aid.
“It’s no mistake that this happened in aviation, where nearly eighty percent of the workforce is unionized. Speaking with a united voice, we enacted the PSP and have now successfully extended it twice.”
The Air Line Pilots Association also was joyed by Wednesday’s vote.
“ALPA is grateful for the dedication by congressional leaders to ensure that the U.S. aviation industry remains positioned to help our nation recover from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association. “By passing the American Rescue Plan, tens of thousands of aviation workers will remain on company payroll and off unemployment as intended by this worker-first program. This important aspect of the overall legislation will help keep our aviation industry poised to quickly respond to increased operations as demand returns.”
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker also celebrated the bill’s passage.
“There is much work left to do before we can all put the pandemic behind us, but with today’s news and the steady progress being made against the virus, we have a hopeful eye on the horizon,” Parker said.
Although air travel has remained depressed in the last year, data is indicating travel may be starting to pick up. On Sunday, 1.28 million people passed through TSA checkpoints, marking the largest travel day since March 15, 2020.