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Executives across the hard-hit U.S. travel industry that has been wrenched by tens of thousands of job losses had harsh words on Tuesday night for President Donald Trump’s decision earlier in the day to delays talks on a federal relief package until after the November election.
“This is unacceptable and unconceivable with millions of Americans out of work and thousands of small businesses barely hanging on,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “It’s time for our leaders in Washington to put politics aside and chart a bipartisan path forward to help businesses and employees in the hardest-hit industries. Millions of jobs and the livelihoods of people who have built their small business for decades are just withering away because our leaders in Washington are prioritizing politics over people.”
U.S. hotel unemployment was 29.9 percent in September, a nearly 20-point improvement from the 48.9 percent posted in April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. But total U.S. unemployment remains significantly better than the hotel sector. The national unemployment number was 7.9 percent for the month.
Shares of the big U.S. airlines plummeted Tuesday after Trump tweeted the news. A key component of the aid was a new $25 billion bailout for U.S. passenger airlines to keep tens of thousands of workers on the job for another six months. A prior $25 billion airline payroll support program expired on September 30.
“We’re disheartened to hear that negotiations over a Covid-19 relief package are not progressing. The past week has dealt a crushing blow to the American Airlines team and the aviation industry, and we were hopeful that overwhelming bipartisan support for the Payroll Support Program would result in immediate action to protect jobs and service to communities across the country,” an American Airlines spokesman said.
“Today is a sad day for our nation, the U.S. aviation industry, and the workers who help keep our skies safe and our world connected,” the spokesman added.
American, whose shares had been trading higher, reversed course to close about 4.5 percent lower after Trump’s tweet while shares of United Airlines closed 3.6 percent lower.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences on the airline industry and our United Airlines team. There is wide, bipartisan support in providing assistance to our industry and we will continue to do everything we can to urge leaders in Washington to pass legislation that will save airline jobs,” said a United spokesperson. “As we have made clear, we are eager to reverse the furlough process should Congress pass legislation to extend the CARES Act Payroll Support Program, and we will continue to update our employees on the latest as this unfolds.”
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International President Sara Nelson said “Trump issued one tweet to blow up the deal and leave millions of essential workers in free-fall. Senate Republicans will own this cruel maneuver that puts our economy in a tailspin unless they demand Covid relief now.”
Above all, travel leaders expressed urgency, as more families lose their safety nets and small business failures mount up and down the travel industry’s economic ecosystem.
“Hardworking Americans whose livelihoods depend on travel and tourism cannot wait until after the election for relief,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the industry’s trade group U.S. Travel Association. “The reality is that small businesses in every pocket of America are shuttering — they needed relief months ago, which has been made clear week after week.
“With millions of Americans suffering, it is woefully shortsighted to end relief negotiations. New data from Tourism Economics shows that, without immediate aid, 50 percent of all travel-supported jobs will be lost by December—an additional loss of 1.3 million jobs. As travel supported 11 percent of all pre-pandemic jobs, it is simply not possible for the U.S. to expect a nationwide economic recovery without meaningful federal relief,” Dow continued.
— Airline Weekly Editor Madhu Unnikrishnan and Reuters contributed to this report.
UPDATED: This story was updated to include comments from American Airlines.