U.S. airlines and negotiators from the Treasury Department have reportedly resolved their differences and have an agreement on the terms of an aid package, giving the industry months of runway to wait for passengers to return following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The industry won $50 billion in support as part of a $2 trillion economic stimulus plan passed through Congress late last month, but the legislation gave Treasury broad discretion when considering how the aid will be distributed and what will be required in return. Airline shares fell on Monday after weekend reports indicated the airlines were balking at the terms Treasury was demanding, but according to the Wall Street Journal those differences have now been resolved.
Treasury was reportedly seeking to convert about 30% of the $25 billion in grants designed to help the airlines meet payroll and avoid layoffs into low-interest loans. The airlines countered that the total would not be enough to support full payroll, given the industry has grounded thousands of jets and cut more than two-thirds of flights.
The need for aid spans the entire industry. For example, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), an industry leader coming into the downturn, has said it expects revenue to be down more than 90% year over year in the second quarter.
Final terms of the agreement have not been released, but Treasury officials were adamant earlier in the day Tuesday that they would not back down from their requirements. The negotiations were high-risk for both sides, as the airlines need the funding to avoid liquidity issues but the government doesn't want to see more layoffs or furloughs at a time when jobless claims are skyrocketing.