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Right on the Money: Coronavirus and the airline industry

The lobbying group that represents major US airlines is asking the government to come up with grants, loans, and tax relief of at least $54 billion.

Let’s talk about the coronavirus and the airline industry. There have been a lot of half-empty planes and canceled flights. Locally-headquartered American and Southwest have had bumpy rides — just look at their 6-month stock price snapshot for evidence of that.

The lobbying group that represents major U.S. airlines is asking the government to come up with grants, loans, and tax relief of at least $54 billion to soften the landing. There has been some grumbling about a possible airline bailout, but here’s what is at stake in North Texas: Dallas-based Southwest employs 12,210 people. Fort Worth-based American employs 33,410. Together, their combined 45,620 jobs make them far and away the largest private employer in North Texas. And that doesn’t even count the multitude of secondary companies that support those two airlines’ operations.

Beyond the two big hometown carriers, though, North Texas is a flight industry mega player. Stats show DFW International and Dallas Love Field support hundreds of thousands of jobs in North Texas. The two airports have an estimated economic impact here of $37 billion. For perspective, that is almost 10 times this year’s budget for the City of Dallas.

So, we are seeing big numbers when it comes to helping the airline industry. But the warning is that we could see some much more startling figures if they don’t get that help. Critics, though, say if the airlines do get a large injection of public assistance, they should be required to agree that there will be benefits and protections for workers and consumers. Others want to prohibit the airlines from using an infusion of money to buy back their own stock at low share prices.

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