Congress Set to OK Aid for Airlines

Congress is set to pass a $15 billion relief package aimed at helping the airline industry, reeling in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with an infusion of cash and measures to reassure a wary traveling public.

The House was expected to approve the plan overwhelmingly on Friday, and the Senate could follow suit later in the day, sending it to President Bush for his signature.

Passage would come a week after Congress moved with uncustomary speed to approve a $40 billion emergency spending bill to help victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, contribute to recovery efforts and fund security and intelligence efforts.

``It's another fine moment in terms of bipartisan cooperation,'' White House budget director Mitchell Daniels said after lawmakers and administration officials, in negotiations going past midnight, finished work on the final details.

The deal came several hours after President Bush, in an address to Congress and the nation on the terrorist strikes, promised that ``we will come together to promote stability and keep our airlines flying with direct assistance during this emergency.''

The bill provides $5 billion in direct aid, the amount the airlines said they would lose by the end of the month as a result of the government-ordered grounding of flights following the terrorist hijackings of four jetliners, and the sharp drop in business since service was restored.

It also offers $10 billion in loan guarantees to airlines that face fewer customers, sharp increases in insurance premiums and rising costs for security.