Congress has approved $3.1 billion in assistance for US airlines as part of an emergency spending bill worth nearly $80 billion to fund the Iraq war effort. The bill gives carriers breaks on security costs and provides benefits for more than 100,000 laid-off industry workers.

The relief package suspends passenger and airline security fees from 1 June to 30 September. It also provides $2.4 billion in security-related grants for airlines, of which the first $100 million is to reimburse carriers for cockpit door reinforcing. The remaining funds will be distributed based on each airline's share of security costs paid to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

In addition, the legislation extends government-backed airline war risk insurance for a year. It also provides an additional 26 weeks of unemploy- ment benefits for laid-off airline workers, estimated to be worth $200 million.

US airlines hailed the legislation as much-needed relief, although it fell short of providing the $9 billion "tax holiday" the industry sought at the Iraq war's outset.

Also included in the Iraq war funding bill is a provision stating that US military cargo contracts cannot go to foreign-owned airlines and redefining what constitutes foreign ownership - moves that could have an impact on DHL Airways.

The bill redefines foreign ownership in a manner that appears to attempt to reclassify DHL Airways, a Chicago-based company that operates aircraft in North America for German cargo giant DHL Worldwide Express network, as non-US owned. US cargo carriers FedEx and United Parcel Service say the legislation could complicate the planned DHL/Airborne Express merger.

Source: Flight International