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Airlines Ask US for $50B

As pandemic slashes traffic, industry negotiates with government for cash, loans
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2020 5:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – "We’re going to be in a position to help the airlines very much," President Trump said Monday when asked about possible government aid in the wake of the huge drop in passenger bookings. The airlines have now put an amount on that promise: $50 billion. That's more than three times as much as they received after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Wall Street Journal reports; the tab for the auto industry bailout was $80 billion. Cash payments, loans and tax help could be part of the deal being discussed by the airlines with Trump administration officials and members of Congress. United Airlines said it plans to cut service in half for April and May because of the coronavirus outbreak and figures the flights it keeps running will only be one-fourth full. "We have to back the airlines," Trump said. "It's not their fault."

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The airlines also made a plea for urgency. "We cannot afford to wait long for assistance," the A4A trade group said. "This is a today problem, not a tomorrow problem," the group's CEO said, per the Washington Post. Airports could ask for federal aid, too. "Airlines may be the most visible part of our aviation system," a House GOP spokesman said, "but we have to ensure that a stabilization package addresses the needs of airports, regional and charter airlines, cargo airlines, manufacturers, and general aviation business." An industry analyst called the plan "an aggressive request" but cautioned that it could be just a starting point. “You have to remember the A4A’s job is to shoot for the universe in hopes of getting the moon," he said. (Not so fast on an airline bailout, columnist writes.)

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