Airlines Brace for Congressional Bailout Drama

As an airline payroll support package is set to expire at midnight, U.S. airline workers are bracing for mass furloughs.

Lobbyists are pressing Congress for a new $25 billion payout to extend protection for airline jobs for another six months.

American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker told CNBC the airline plans to move forward with furloughs on Thursday without action before the end of the day but he added he is “highly hopeful” of action by Congress in the coming hours.

“It’s pedal to the metal until 11:59:59 on Sept. 30, and then some,” said Amanda Steinbrunn, a United Airlines UAL.O flight attendant who is among tens of thousands of airline workers to be furloughed beginning Thursday, if there’s no action by Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she is hopeful for a comprehensive coronavirus relief deal this week, but airline officials would welcome a stand alone bill — but that may also prove difficult to achieve unanimous support.

Airlines are now operating about half of their 2019 schedules, and suffering a 68% decline in passenger volumes. Thousands of employees have already been instructed to return their badges.