FOX VALLEY AREA REGIONAL NEWS: Calumet County, Fond du Lac County, Outagamie County, Winnebago County


Airlines and airports in Northeast Wisconsin hope federal help is coming soon

Local News

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) Tens of thousands of people employed in the airline industry are waiting to see if the federal government will help save their jobs. As Kris Schuller reports, Congress failed to extend the $25 billion Payroll Support Program keeping them afloat.

Since March, the airline industry has been struggling to stay afloat after the pandemic kept people at home and out of local airports.

“This past six months has been just a horrible time for anyone in commercial aviation,” said Patrick Tracey, marketing manager for Appleton International Airport.

Tracey says his airport’s daily passenger count fell as low as just 19 people – when they’d normally see up to 1,500.

“We are still at 35 percent of where we would typically be for customers,” said Tracey.

And Austin Straubel’s airport director says while the past six months have been bleak, more and more people are starting to fly again.

“We can see in the Midwest and us in particular, we’re doing a little bit better than the rest of the country in seeing our passengers return,” said Marty Piette.

But that momentum is now in jeopardy, with Congress unable to agree on a new relief bill, putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk.

Outside the Capitol last week, airline CEOs, union leaders and employees pleaded with Congress for another $25 billion in payroll support to prevent furloughs and layoff through at least March. But so far, a COVID relief package and a Senate bill focused on airline aide are stalled.

“Americans are hurting. And we need things to work efficiently to get them help,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-WA), Chair, House Transportation Committee.

“We absolutely cannot let an entire sector of the economy collapse,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), House Transportation Committee.

Thoughts echoed by Piette who says airports and airlines are just too necessary to the recovery.

“We’re doing a little bit better, but nowhere near the levels we need to be to sustain the aircraft, the people and the wages and everything else,” Piette said.

“We need help to get our economy back on track and that is what we’re looking for the federal government to help us with,” Tracey said.

“We need to keep that assistance going so we don’t allow it to crumble,” Piette said. Piette says he’s hopeful Congress will come up with a funding bill in the coming days.

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