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American Rescue Plan Includes Billions More For Air Travel

Empty chairs at Tampa International Airport
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano warns that, even with more government assistance and coronavirus vaccines, airlines and airports still face a long recovery.

Airlines and airports, which have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic, will get another $14 billion under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan — provided they do not lay off any staff before October.

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan — which the House is scheduled to vote on Tuesday — includes support for the aviation industry. Airports and airlines have already received billions of dollars in federal money from the CARES Act and the stimulus package passed late last year.

The financial losses from the pandemic cut deep, and the industry asked lawmakers for more help in Biden’s proposal. Airlines will get another $14 billion, under the condition they do not lay off any staff before October.

The bill also includes $800 million for concessionaires, who operate airport restaurants and shops. These companies laid off hundreds of workers at Tampa International Airport last year, though some have since been re-hired.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) touted the relief during a press conference at Tampa International Airport Monday. She was joined by airport CEO Joe Lopano and George Tinsley, who owns the P.F. Chang’s at TPA and other airport restaurants.

Lopano said he saw “green shoots” for the airline industry thanks to an accelerated rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, but he warned there was a long road ahead.

“The lasting impact of COVID on our business is undeniable,” he said. “Our airport is faced with staggering revenue losses in the coming years as commercial aviation slowly, very slowly, gets back on its feet.”

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.