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US airlines move closer to new government aid package

WASHINGTON / CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. airlines are set to receive a four-month extension of a government aid package that is expected to provide an additional $ 17 billion to fund wage costs, advisers told Reuters of Congress.

An estimated $ 900 billion coronavirus relief bill still under negotiation would allocate $ 17 billion to airlines and allow them to bring back more than 32,000 workers laid off in October, after a measure previous six-month $ 25 billion expired Sept. 30.

A final deal on the $ 900 billion relief plan could be reached as early as Thursday morning in the United States.

Airline workers would be paid retroactively to Dec. 1 and airlines would have to resume flights to certain routes they ceased to operate after the aid program expired, congressional advisers told Reuters on the move. talks. Airline workers could not be put on leave until March 31 as a condition of the aid.

Reuters first reported on December 1 that a $ 908 billion bipartisan proposal included $ 17 billion for airline wage assistance, as well as $ 15 billion for U.S. transit systems, 4 billion dollars for airports, 1 billion dollars for the Amtrak passenger railroad and 8 billion dollars for private bus companies and other services.

In October, American Airlines laid off 19,000 employees while United Airlines laid off more than 13,000 employees.

American Airlines suspended flights to some smaller US airports in October.

On December 9, the number of passengers screened at U.S. airports fell to 501,513, the lowest number since July 4 as cases of COVID-19 increased.

The new aid package is expected to mirror the previous $ 25 billion package approved by Congress in March, which required major airlines to repay 30% of wage subsidies over time and offer government mandates.

U.S. carriers lose $ 180 million in cash every day, with passenger volumes down 65% to 70% and cancellations increasing, industry lobby Airlines for America has said.

Congress previously set aside an additional $ 25 billion for airlines for low-interest loans.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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