By Kate Davidson 

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Treasury Department sent $2.9 billion in aid to airlines Monday, the first payments the government has made as part of a grant and loan program to help the industry weather disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Treasury said it sent the payments to two large airlines and 54 smaller passenger carriers, and would continue to disburse funds on a rolling basis. It didn't identify the airlines.

It also said that it had completed agreements with six large companies: American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., Spirit Airlines Inc. and Allegiant Air.

Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways Corp., and SkyWest Airlines have indicated that they plan to participate in the grant and loan program, which will allocate $25 billion for passenger air carriers to help them continue paying workers' salaries and benefits through the summer.

Together, the 11 large airlines represent 95% of U.S. airline capacity, the Treasury said Monday.

Air travel has plunged as governments around the world imposed travel restrictions to help contain the pandemic.

"The Payroll Support Program is critical to supporting American workers and preserving our airline industry, which is a vital part of the U.S. economy," Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "We continue to work quickly to deliver this needed relief."

The $25 billion for airlines is part of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package Congress passed in March.

Southwest said Monday that it had completed its agreement to receive $3.2 billion under the program, and would receive an immediate payment of $1.6 billion with the rest paid in installments in May, June and July.

"This assistance will support valuable jobs which exist to serve the flying public and the infrastructure, supply chain, and recovery of our national economy," Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said in a statement.

Write to Kate Davidson at kate.davidson@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 20, 2020 21:53 ET (01:53 GMT)

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