DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth-based American and Dallas-based Southwest Airlines are praising the deal for a new coronavirus relief bill struck by Congress, and they’re urging both the House and Senate to pass it quickly so President Trump can sign it.

It’s a boost both airlines’ employee unions say they’ve desperately needed.

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Lyn Montgomery, President of TWU Local 556, which represents the airlines flight attendants said Monday, Dec. 21, “There could not be a better Christmas present for Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants, for other flight attendants across the nation, and for aviation workers.”

Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines’ pilots said, “It’s great news, it’s been a long time coming. It’s been really tough the last several months.”
American Airlines furloughed about 19,000 employees since October 1.

In a letter to employees Monday afternoon, the airline said once the legislation passes, they’ll be able to recall U.S. based furloughed employees and have their pay and benefits reinstated back to December 1st.

Their goal is to get all of them paychecks by Christmas Eve.

American CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom told workers, “We have fought shoulder to shoulder with our labor partners since the summer to get to this point.. Your work is critical to the country, and it has been recognized…”

Tajer said, “That’s really important. We’ve had two months, October and November of a lot of our fellow employees that, you know, got zero paychecks. I’m sure is it doesn’t make up for the loss that happened. But you know, it was tough getting here, and it didn’t come when we needed it. But it’s come now, and we’re extremely grateful for that.”

At Southwest, employees are hoping the agreement once approved will prevent the airline from furloughing about seven thousand employees starting in March.

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The airline warned about the potential earlier this month.

A Southwest spokesman said the airline will review specifics of the relief bill but that executives are pleased with the development in Washington. “We greatly appreciate the bipartisan leadership shown over the past week in Washington. We are tremendously grateful that federal leaders recognize the success and importance of the payroll support program.”

Montgomery said, “Never in our history have we had to send massive furloughs and never before had more notices ever been sent out as they were at the beginning of December. So we hope that it will be enough to get us over the hump.”

On Monday afternoon, Texas Senator John Cornyn agreed the relief package is crucial for the airlines. “I’m glad we’re able to provide some additional support for the airlines during this tough time because it’s going to take a while until people are confident again, and their ridership picks up. So this is really important.”

The employee unions at both airlines are hoping the Covid-19 vaccines will give people a shot of confidence so that more start to fly and allow the airlines to expand their flight schedules.

Montgomery said, “It’s certainly a step in the right direction. I think we’re all waiting and hoping that this vaccine is going to be given and administered to enough people across the nation to make it effective. We want more people to come back and travel that customer demand needs to return to pre-Covid levels.”

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