Economic relief bill includes bailout for struggling airline industry

The economic relief package includes billions of dollars for the struggling airline industry, and it could mean paychecks will come back to thousands of North Texas families furloughed by the economic downturn.

It certainly is a sigh of relief for those who have been out of work or worried about furloughs down the line. People in the airline industry say it's a good step in changing the course brought on by the pandemic.

A Congressional agreement reached over the weekend in Washington includes $15 billion for airlines and their employees.

Nearly 30,000 people have been furloughed due to the pandemic, including almost 20,000 with Fort Worth-based American Airlines.

(Photo by Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

Lyn Montgomery is the president of the Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents more than 16,000 Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

"That is the best Christmas present any flight attendant could ever hope to get for 2020," she said.

Earlier this month, Southwest warned nearly 7,000 employees they may be furloughed by April.

Montgomery hopes the news of more federal relief will keep those furloughs, a first for the Dallas-Based company, from happening.

"So we are going to continue to work with Southwest Airlines leadership to get the furloughs off the table," she said. "So right now, we’re not sure but I certainly hoping that this will put them off the table."

Montgomery says employees with companies like American and United who were furloughed earlier this year could see a paycheck before the end of the month.

Lori Bassani is the former president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and spent 35 years with American Airlines. She’s pleased with the news but is angry it took so long for a deal to be reached.

"Thousands of airline jobs were lost," she said. "It should not have taken this long to formulate and pass a much-needed bill that means putting food on the table."

It’s money that former airline captain Denny Kelly calls critical. He says financial relief will likely go to larger airlines like American, Southwest, Delta and United. And while he says while some relief is better than none, job security for thousands of airline employees remains up in the air as long as demand for air travel remains as low as it has.

"They are waiting to see until after the first of the year what the traffic is gonna be like," Kelly said. "Because if it’s as bad as they think, they’re going to end up furloughing people anyway probably in March."

While Montgomery says employees could see money as soon as this week, Kelly says the turnaround may take a little more time. He expects airlines to see money by the end of the month and employees to see dollars sometime in January.