With help from Doug Palmer
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— After a few days of haggling over the terms, 10 airlines are locked in to receive payroll grants from the Treasury Department. More carriers could be on the way.
— Boeing is still waiting to seewhat it might have to sacrifice to get federal assistance as customers cancel orders and production sputters.
— The FAA is warning that hydroxychloroquine, touted as a possible coronavirus treatment by President Donald Trump, is a prohibited substance and anyone who takes it can’t pilot a plane for 48 hours after their last dose.
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WE HAVE A DEAL: The Trump administration finally inked a deal with 10 airlines on Tuesday, ensuring that the grant money to pay employees will start flowing soon.
Who’s in: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Other carriers, including Spirit Airlines, are still working out the details but plan to take advantage of the grants as well.
What the agreements look like: Treasury didn’t give out details about its arrangements with individual airlines, but some of the companies made the top lines public. As our Anthony Adragna reports, for example: “Southwest Airlines said it would accept $3.2 billion through the payroll program, including $2.3 billion in direct support and a nearly $1 billion loan. It said the loan would be a low-interest, ten-year arrangement that includes approximately 2.6 million stock warrants for Treasury.”
There’s still frustration among some in the industry. The leaders of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Communication Workers of America, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the Transport Workers Union, UNITE HERE and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO released a joint statement decrying the agreement with Treasury.
"The Treasury Department’s decision to transform direct payroll aid into a loan program creates a terrible precedent and endangers workers’ careers. We urge Congress to use its oversight and legislative powers to remedy this distortion of the law and ensure frontline workers are not further harmed by this crisis," the groups wrote.
A SIMPLER PROCESS: While the haggling over airline money wraps up, airports are getting their money now (albeit from a smaller pot). DOT announced $10 billion in grants for capital costs, operations, and debt payments on Tuesday, quickly readying funds included in the CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116). They’ll be available “as soon as the airport sponsor executes a grant agreement,” DOT said. As Anthony reports, the size of the grants vary widely — from as little as $1,000 to small facilities to hundreds of millions for the country’s biggest hubs. By MT’s count, 3,285 airports are eligible.
The industry is grateful for the timely support, said Kevin Burke, president of the Airports Council International-North America, in a statement. “These grants will help airports offset some of the financial damage from the abrupt, unexpected drop in air travel that resulted from necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Burke said.
BOEING STILL WAITING IN THE WINGS: In the manufacturing wing of the aviation sector, the biggest player is standing by to see what terms Treasury has to offer before deciding whether to apply for coronavirus recovery assistance.
A source familiar with the discussions between Boeing and the administration told POLITICO that once Treasury makes its eligibility and process decisions, the company "will work with them to understand that process and determine a path forward from there."
Boeing CEO David Calhoun recently told Fox Business that the large U.S. employer had no interest in receiving aid if that meant the government would take an equity stake. But a senior Boeing executive told The Washington Post that Calhoun’s comments had been misinterpreted. Boeing is discussing “what flavor of government liquidity assistance would be most logical and helpful, not only to our business but to the industry and our suppliers,” the executive said.
PILOTS BEWARE: Trump’s “miracle” drug hydroxychloroquine is a prohibited substance, the FAA said in a memo on Tuesday. First reported by CNN, the directive states that pilots who have taken the drug must wait 48 hours before flying again. It’s more a reminder than a new policy: "Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine were both reviewed by the FAA Federal Air Surgeon when they entered the market and have long been considered generally incompatible for those performing safety related aviation duties," the FAA said in a statement to POLITICO. Your MT host has more for Pros.
IN REGULATORY LAND: DOT has denied a request to extend the comment period for its new rules on traveling with service animals. Read more in the Federal Register.
THERE'S A TIME AND PLACE: After House Republicans called for the revival of an autonomous vehicle bill last week (arguing that self-driving vehicles can be part of the Covid-19 response), labor, safety and consumer groups chafed at the idea, saying essentially “now’s not the time.” The push was a longshot in the first place, as AV legislation has been languishing on Capitol Hill for years and there are many other priorities in front of it, but the groups aren’t taking any chances. “We adamantly oppose any efforts to attach legislation from last session or staff draft provisions from this session for the deployment of AVs to any must-pass legislation,” reads a letter led by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. A quintet of labor groups, as well as Consumer Reports, wrote in with similar sentiments this week.
DOC OF THE DAY: Kevin DeGood, director of infrastructure policy at the Center for American Progress, has a new report making the case that infrastructure decisions are political, not technical. He concludes: “Instead of asking how much infrastructure we need, the policy conversation should begin with the question, 'What are we trying to achieve?'”
DOC OF THE DAY, PART II: A new analysis by the firm Lux Research lays out the challenges ahead for the burgeoning hyperloop industry. It finds that cost, not technical challenges, is the biggest barrier for the futuristic vacuum trains, which have been hyped over the last few years. “The issue of high costs is the most likely reason Hyperloop will fail,” the Lux researchers wrote, adding that it’s unlikely to see any hyperloop routes in operation before 2040.
The regulatory environment is a key factor to watch, they write. “Government support will be heavily involved with the first Hyperloop systems through both regulations and financial support.”
Samuel Johnson has been named CEO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies, which oversees the toll road network in Orange County, Calif.
— “Man accidentally ejects himself from fighter jet during surprise flight.” The Guardian.
— “Dulles mobile lounges here to stay, but they might go electric.” WTOP.
— “GM prepares to ship first round of ventilators.” CNN.
— “Armed men seize, release tanker off Iran by Strait of Hormuz.” AP.
— “Cruise ships crews: Stuck at sea, paydays dwindling and searching for a way home.” Washington Post.
DOT appropriations run out in 168 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 1,264 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 168 days.