Delta expects to get $2.5 billion from stimulus funding

Travelers check in through plexiglass dividers at Delta at Hartsfield-Jackson. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Travelers check in through plexiglass dividers at Delta at Hartsfield-Jackson. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Delta Air Lines expects to be allotted roughly $2.5 billion in pandemic aid from the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday.

In the American Rescue Plan, $14 billion is dedicated to airlines. Another $1 billion will go to airline contractors.

Airlines that accept the government funding would be prohibited from laying off workers through Sept. 30.

“A year ago, we never could have foreseen the length and long-term impacts the COVID-19 pandemic would have on our industry,” Atlanta-based Delta said in a written statement. It added that the funding “will allow Delta and the entire airline industry to support the global economic recovery.”

The latest round of airline aid comes after an initial $25 billion round last spring and a second $15 billion injection in December, both included in previous stimulus legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President Donald Trump.

Delta accepted about $5.4 billion in the first round and $2.8 billion in the second round. As a result, Delta said it was able to avoid involuntary furloughs of workers.

However, with air travel plummeting last year due to the coronavirus, Delta still slashed its workforce through thousands of buyouts, early retirements and voluntary unpaid leaves. It also cut hours and total pay of many of its workers by 25% last year before restoring full pay this year.

Industry group Airlines for America called the stimulus legislation vital to preserving the jobs of flight attendants, pilots, mechanics, gate agents and others. U.S. airlines are still collectively burning through about $150 million of cash a day, with passenger volumes down nearly 60%, according to the industry association.

The Association of Flight Attendants union said the legislation would enable airline workers to stay current on their certifications to be ready to meet demand when travel returns.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport expects it could get approximately $200 million for operating expenses or debt service from the stimulus legislation, along with roughly $40 million to $50 million for concessions relief.

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