US President Donald Trump has signed a $2 trillion aid package designed to support distressed companies and employees after the coronavirus pandemic massively disrupted the US economy in the past weeks.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which has provisions for the air transport industry and its workers to the tune of $58 billion, was passed by the US House of Representatives earlier in the day.
It includes provisions for passenger and cargo airlines, general aviation, as well as air transport-related employees and contractors who fear for their livelihoods after demand for air travel dropped as the pandemic spread around the world.
The Senate approved the bill on 25 March after about a week of negotiations between politicians of the two chambers.
The measure includes loans to passenger airlines and related businesses ($25 billion), cargo airlines ($4 billion) and business “critical to maintaining national security” ($17 billion).
Aside from loans, the bill will provide ”payroll support” of about another $29 billion for passenger and cargo airlines, and $3 billion for contractors like baggage handlers and catering workers. This money must be used for wages, benefits and health care.
Airports will also be supported with an additional $10 billion, with $100 million going specifically to smaller general aviation airports. The document also provides relief from excise taxes for general aviation commercial operations.
In return for the aid, airlines will be subject to a six-month ban on furloughs as well as no share buybacks, and restrictions on stock dividends and executive salaries.
Airlines, industry groups and aviation professionals are eagerly awaiting to take advantage of the bill’s benefits, as uncertainty remains high. Many airlines have reduced operations, temporarily suspended service or completely shuttered due to the sharp drop-off in passenger demand.
Meantime, freight and cargo operators are seeing more demand due to reduced passenger aircraft cargo capacity, according to reports. Some passenger airlines have also pivoted service to offer more charter freight operations to satisfy this increased demand.
Updates on 27 March to reflect that US President Donald Trump has signed the bill into law.