White House Says Coronavirus 'Worse than 9/11' for Airline Industry

On Monday, the airline industry asked for more than $50 billion in government assistance.

The White House said it is attempting to pass an aid package to help the airline industry, among others, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday.

During a news conference, the Trump administration said the pandemic and its resulting travel bans have hurt U.S. airlines worse than the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, which caused tens of thousands of layoffs as the threat of bankruptcy loomed over many air transportation companies at the time.

“This is worse than 9/11 for the airline industry, they are almost grounded to a halt,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin alongside Donald Trump. “The president wants to make sure although we don’t want people to travel unless it’s critical, we want to maintain… the right to have domestic travel.”

The airline industry on Monday asked the government to provide more than $50 billion in government assistance in grants and loans to help combat the rapidly declining demand for air travel, which is in part due to the steps taken to limit flights to stop the spread of the disease.

“We unequivocally support prudent steps like these to keep the American people safe. But, these actions have also created a fast-moving, financial crisis unlike anything the U.S. airline industry has faced before,” United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz wrote in a letter obtained by Politico.

“In fact, the financial impact of this crisis on our industry is much worse than the stark downturn that we saw in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks,” he added.

The White House is expected to approve the loans, but Mnuchin declined to specify any details.

“We are very focused,” he said during the news conference. “There are a lot of workers. This is strategically important to us, and we will be working with Congress.”

Trump assured the attendees that “the airline industry will be in good shape,” before revealing he wanted to focus on lending a hand to the largest airline exporter.

“Boeing got hit hard in many different ways,” he said. “I think it is going to be outstanding, but we have to protect Boeing. We have to help Boeing. Obviously when the airlines aren’t doing well, Boeing is not going to be doing well. So we’ll be helping Boeing.”

After the 9/11 attacks, the federal government provided the airline industry with $10 billion in loan guarantees, along with $5 billion for short-term assistance, according to “The Economic Effects of 9/11: A Retrospective Assessment.”

[via TooFab]

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