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The U.S. Senate late Wednesday passed a massive $2 trillion recovery package that is aimed at preventing an economic free fall during the coronavirus outbreak, and part of the package includes funding for U.S. airlines, which have suffered major loses.
Passenger airlines would receive $25 billion for workers' "salaries and benefits," plus up to $25 billion more in loan guarantees and loans. Contract workers would also receive $3 billion in assistance. Airlines would have to agree not to furlough workers until at least the end of September in return.
Domestic and international flights in the U.S. are estimated to have dropped by around 68 percent in April due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, Reuters reported.
The grounding of around 1,800 flights globally has also sharply reduced cargo capacity as about 50 percent of air cargo worldwide travels on passenger planes rather than cargo-specific flights, according to Reuters.
American Airlines flew its first cargo-only flight last week on a Boeing 777 passenger plane that was grounded due to cutbacks.
“We have a critical role to play in keeping essential goods moving during this unprecedented time, and we are proud to do our part and find ways to continue to serve our customers and our communities,” said Rick Elieson, the president of cargo, and the vice president of international operations at American Airlines, in a press release last Thursday.
The pandemic has devastated the industry -- with some carriers temporarily cutting flights by more than 50 percent, including Alaska, which is slashing flights over the next two months by 70 percent.
United similarly announced Wednesday it would be cutting flights throughout the U.S. by 52 percent overall after it said it was reducing international flights by 90 percent
Like American, Delta Airlines has started using sidelined Airbus A350s and Boeing 777s to bring supplies from Europe to the U.S.
“We’re here to help keep global commerce moving and supply lines open,” Shawn Cole, vice president of Delta Cargo, said in a press release. “Transforming our operation to provide cargo-only charter flights allows us to diversify our business at a time where the global need to move critical supplies is significant. It’s also core to what we do and who we are—ensuring we connect the world, even in challenging times.”
Fox News' Gregg Re contributed to this report