On December 20, 2020, the US government reached a final agreement on a relief deal which would provide the airlines with a new round of aid of $15 billion.
“At long last we have the bipartisan breakthrough the country has needed,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Now we need to promptly finalize text, avoid any last-minute obstacles and cooperate to move this legislation through both chambers.”
While $10 billion less than requested, the new aid would allow air carriers to call back more than 32,000 workers who were furloughed in October 2020. Recalled staff would receive back pay from the period starting December 1, 2020. A final approval of the bill is expected to be achieved on December 21, 2020. Airlines should receive funds about 10 days after the bill is signed, reported the U.S. News.
“Congressional Democrats have reached an agreement with Republicans and the White House on an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package that delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people,” wrote the House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a tweet.
In addition to airline aid, the new coronavirus package includes $1 billion for airline contractors and $2 billion for airports, according to the CNBC News.
Airlines previously received $25 billion under the CARES Act in March 2020. The aid helped them to pay staff and avoid job cuts until October 2020. Once the financial support expired, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) and United Airlines furloughed more than 32,000 workers in October 2020. Since then, airlines have been lobbying for additional financial aid to keep workers on the payroll.
In November 2020, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that North American carriers saw a 91.3% traffic decline in September 2020. North American airlines have lost more than $36 billion in 2020.
Despite the warning from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stay home during the Christmas holidays, US travelers flocked the airports. On December 20, 2020, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it screened over 2 million people at US airports over the weekend. It is the first time that TSA screened more than one million people for two consecutive days since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US.