The new $900 billion package of coronavirus and non-coronavirus measures is over 5000 pages long, and even talks about eating horses. And packed in there is $15 billion for airlines, ostensibly to get them to hire back furloughed workers. But there’s only about 40,000 furloughed workers, and the $15 billion is only meant to last four months – pay is retroactive to December 1.
Now that the second airline bailout is done – the CARES Act contained $50 billion plus invaluable tax relief for U.S. airlines – United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby is already positioning for a third bailout. This is what J.P. Morgan Chase told investors would happen in October and by the way they characterized this to investors as money for airlines and not ‘payroll support’ (in other words, the truth). Delta for instance will get about $3.2 billion to avert furloughs even though they never furloughed anyone.
Now, those employees who are eligible under the terms of the PSP extension can temporarily come back to United through March 2021. This is certainly good news for our economy, our industry, and our airline – but it’s especially good news for those who have been without a paycheck, and we can’t wait to welcome them back.
Importantly, though, we don’t expect customer demand to change much between now and the end of the first quarter of 2021. United has been realistic about our outlook throughout the crisis, and we’ve tried to give you an honest assessment every step of the way. The truth is, we just don’t see anything in the data that shows a huge difference in bookings over the next few months. That is why we expect the recall will be temporary.
Airlines said they needed payroll support through March 2021 so that they’d keep their employees connected to the airline and fully trained, so that they’d be prepared to fly when the economy recovered – and so they could transport vaccines.
However United Airlines is telling the employees they’re recalling from furlough to expect to be furloughed again after March. That doesn’t keep them connected to the airline until the economy recovers. And most vaccine shipments, best on production schedules, will happen after March.
The ink was barely dry on the first bailout when Kirby started positioning for the second one so it’s no surprise he’s already positioning for a third. Will he get it?