Profitable Deportation Airline Scores $67 Million CARES Act Bailout

The CARES Act was meant to support the U.S. airline industry. It seemed like a bad idea at the time. I argued that government should be the last place airlines looked for money and that shareholders and creditors should take a hit before taxpayers. This month American and United have announced billions in new raise. The federal government, if it had any role, should certainly be lender of last resort not first resort.

Nonetheless at least 287 airlines have gotten bailout funds. The Act wasn’t sold as a way to support Rite Bros Aviation or Guardian Helicopters. Alexander Nazaryan has background on another surprising recipient: Omni Air International which has been awarded $67,071,357.

They’re a profitable ‘deportation airline’ operating charter flights for the Department of Homeland Security, and before securing the $67 million bailout they were awarded a new $78 million Defense Department contract for “international charter airlift services.”

Omni Air has charged the federal government exorbitant prices for “high risk” deportation flights for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency tasked with addressing the plight of millions who live within the United States without proper documentation. The expense was related to the unwillingness of airlines other than Omni Air to conduct such flights.

Omni Air Operating Flight For Air Canada in 2019, Credit: Brand03 via Wikimedia Commons

The carrier has been paid as much as $1.8 million to deport 163 people – they’re able to charge $11,000 per passenger because they’re one of the only airlines willing to be a part of these flights.

Omni Air says they “employ[..] more than 800 people.” Funds had not yet been awarded as of May 12, and were awarded funds by June 15. Let’s assume they received the award June 1, meaning covering 4 months of payroll. That’s an average of $83,750 per reported employee, or an annualized cost of $251,250 per employee. And the airline makes money.

It’s unclear why Omni Air received so much support, though some have speculated that significant campaign donations (the President even made a campaign stop at Omni Air’s parent company in 2016) could have played a role. Either way it’s unexpected, but not surprising, that the CARES Act airline bailout is used in part to subsidize administration immigration policy.

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] According to the American Airlines C-Suite the “most rewarding” thing about 2020 was getting two rounds of multi-billion dollar government subsidies. Think about that. These subsidies went to all airlines, of course, even Delta and Southwest that didn’t furlough workers, to profitable regional carriers and to a deportation airline. […]


  1. They also a large operator of military return flights. They are a regular at BWI. Framing them as simply deportation is very misleading.

  2. Most family’s ancestors came to US LEGALLY…..nobody should jump the line.
    Those WHO CHOSE to walk to America….should now walk back to their home. It was their choice always.
    However in some cases the money paid to deport criminals is justifiable. I am sure Kate Steinle’s family would dearly wish that Kate’s killer was deported forever AND that San Francisco was not a sanctuary city. Goes to show that the murderer Zárate was not stupid. He knew he could walk free and he did ! There will always be a breakdown in society when the Democratic leadership of these cities fail to protect their own people. Now that’s progressive! Ha.

  3. @Jenna. Legal immigration was actually very different until the series of alien acts in the 1880s prompted in part by early eugenics theories. There were no border controls until then.

    The legal system is nothing like the 1900s and it’s a broken mess the right refuses to engage with except to ban people or separate children from their families. The left has tried but when you have to choose between healthcare/Medicare cuts or fixing immigration it’s an easy choice for them. Thus we have a terrible system neither the left nor the right like.

    I can’t speak to why people would chose to walk, and why they don’t try to use the legal system other than hearing from my immigration lawyer friends who say the system is arbitrary and very hard to use.

    Now, before this whole mess, we let people in if they were well, wanted to be here, and could prove they had a skill that would make them employable. With the current quota system, we arbitrarily put numbers on it.

    Learn some history like you right wing wahoos pretend to know and maybe think about why people would want to come here, and how the US can fix immigration. Or do you worry about a Hispanic invasion so are against efficient immigration? (like the right has feared the Chinese, Germans and Others).

    Also you must be a terrible person to invoke Steinle’s family. They have even asked to not be used in this way. Shame on you. Let the family stop being a public topic like they’ve asked for.

  4. @JBJ Amazing how every other country… in the world has an immigration policy except America. But we here in US are not allowed to have one.
    Mexico routinely jails Nicaraguans and others crossing their country. Cross into Saudi Arabia or Russia or any number of nations and see how you are treated. The USA treats walk ins very humanely. Since YOU should brought up Politics….Obama adm. separated children from parents, did you bring this up then?? I say not.
    You seem to think you have a superiority over other people of different races or beliefs.

    My family immigrated (1920’s) by people who co-signed for them. So they were not a burden to taxpayers already here. They still suffered terribly and lost a child in Ellis Island due to disease
    (Is that regulated now??) It takes about two generations for immigrants to “achieve the American dream.” Most ECONOMIC refugees with their hand out expect a miracle overnight. I am NOT against immigration. We need workers to pick strawberries, dig out potatoes from the dirt, and other jobs that refugees gladly do in other countries. Of course, they can come in and be regulated like all other immigrants who were before them.
    As for a quota. Shouldn’t Americans already here without a job…..get the training and good paying jobs? Do you really believe Black Lives Matter? Ok, then educate and give opportunities to the Black Community. Build up the society here, Mr. Deep Pockets….i.e. put your money where your……..

    Since YOU brought up Politics…I am apolitical. Both sides are in the swamp. I noticed you failed to bring up sanctuary cities as I did …..being the problem. Maybe you are from a Sanctuary state. And as such think think that you are superior in most ways compared to others. Chicago on Father’s Day Weekend had over 100 people shot and some killed. And Chicago has some of the most stringent laws concerning guns. How is that possible?
    Again, your answer. Sanctuary cities do NOT enforce the law. Those Democratic strongholds don’t care about Black on Black crime. Like Margaret Sanger’s “ Planned Parenthood”” they want black children to be aborted. So you see your feeling of superiority really is against ALL of society. We need everybody working together.
    I sincerely ask you to question your beliefs. Is it wrong to kill people, if you are not a citizen here?
    Should drugs be brought in to hurt American people….is that OK in your mind? Then stand for truth and righteousness. Right is right and Wrong is wrong.
    There is a reason why the US deports some people. THINK…!!!!!! In John 18:38, Pontius Pilate who was “high level” as far as the world is concerned asked Jesus, What is truth?
    Do not rely only on your intellect as some people are educated way beyond their intellect. It takes a lot of seat time to get a PhD….but that does not insure wise decisions in life.
    When you find out what truth is….you will then have a heart. Respectfully, Jen

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