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Bush Prepares to Sign $15 Bill. Aid Bill to Help Airline Industry

President Bush said during his weekly radio address, ”The administration and congressional leaders of both parties have agreed to deliver emergency aid to keep our airlines flying.”

“This will help the airlines maintain short-term stability as they work toward long-term viability for the benefit of all the workers and companies that depend on air travel.”

Since four passenger planes were hijacked and used to carry out the deadliest terrorist attacks in history, the aviation industry has been struggling to calm passengers and maintain operations. Most planes have been flying at less than 30 percent capacity since returning to the skies.

Because of the shift in the industry, the major U.S. carriers and plane manufacturer Boeing have laid off 100,000 employees in just the last week.

Congress moved quickly Friday to pass the aid package. In rapid succession the Senate by a 96-1 vote and the House by a 356-54 vote approved the proposal. Most of the opposition came from Democrats unhappy by the lack of support for those laid off.

“There are good things in this bill… It’s a bill to keep these airlines going,” House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said during the debate. “It is also… has some glaring omissions from my viewpoint. Because while we are still trying to keep the people who are working, working, we have about 100,000 or more people tonight who are not working, who have been laid off, unemployed unexpectedly.”

The bill contains $5 billion to compensate airlines for losses suffered from the government-ordered grounding of flights after the attacks. The measure also offers $10 billion in loan guarantees to airlines near bankruptcy.

United Airlines announced Thursday it would lay off approximately 20,000 employees, while American Airlines, the world’s largest carrierwill also lay off roughly 20,000 from its American Eagle, TWA and main American Airlines divisions.

Planes from both American and United Airlines were hijacked last Tuesday and used in the deadly crashes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in rural Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, other airline companies have also tightened their belts after last week’s events.

Northwest announced it would furlough 10,000 employees. Continental Airlines has cut 12,000 jobs, U.S. Airways cut 11,000, and America West laid off 2,000 employees.

America Trans Air, National Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have also announced cuts, while Midway Airlines has closed its doors.

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