The aviation industry faces the greatest disaster of all time as Capitol Hill again hits a dead end over a law to ease coronavirus, said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
"We are experiencing a crisis that is greater than any financial crisis that the aviation industry has faced since the aircraft first flew," Nelson told CNBC on Tuesday evening.
It has been 250 days since the last bill was passed. While new talks have started, no action has been taken against a new $ 908 billion bipartisan Senate move that includes funding for small businesses, state and local governments, and funding for $ 300 per week in unemployment benefits. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shot down saying he needed to find out what President Donald Trump would actually sign.
"We don't have time for messaging games. We don't have time for lengthy negotiations," said McConnell on Tuesday after the bill was released.
In an interview with The News with Shepard Smith, Nelson said the March Stimulus Bill should have taken the guesswork out of negotiating and writing another bill. She said, "[It] has been the most transparent and successful package of any coronavirus relief, and it is meant to be the template that can be used for any other industry."
The airline's employees have received financial support through the CARES Act's Payroll Support Program, which came into force on March 27. It kept airline employees on payroll during the pandemic, but those benefits expired on September 30. Nelson stated this due to federal inaction, thousands in the aviation industry were unemployed. She added that lawmakers could take important steps to help the ailing aviation industry by approving another round of payroll assistance.
"Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their wages, many are disconnected from the healthcare system and are wondering how to pay their rent checks, how they will get by, and they are on those breadlines from other Americans with a lot of money right now," said Nelson. "We have been waiting for this common sense bill, which would currently get 95 votes in the Senate if it were to vote, and we have been waiting for this to be passed since August."
Thanksgiving air travel demand was down about 60% year over year. Airlines will have shed the equivalent of around 90,000 jobs by the end of the year, including more than 30,000 vacation days with airlines like United and American that started last month and the departure of thousands of other workers who have accepted acquisitions by Southwest, Delta and other airlines .
Nelson painted a bleak picture of where airline revenues currently stand. "Let's be really clear that travel expenses are down 60% during the Thanksgiving holiday, but it's only half that during the week," she said. "There is no business travel and the income is half of it because there is no business travel."
Boston Consulting Group's projections indicated that travel would not return to 2019 levels until 2023 or 2024.
Nelson said she remains optimistic that air traffic will get back on its feet. "We're going to get the aviation industry going again, and when someone first closes a deal because they went there in person, trust me, it'll be back to normal."