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Sunday, 23 September, 2001, 03:14 GMT 04:14 UK
Airlines receive $15bn aid boost
United Airlines ands at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago
US airlines will be compensated for their losses
US President George W Bush has signed into law a $15bn aid package for the country's airlines industry, to ease a financial crisis stemming from last week's terrorist attacks.

The legislation "will provide urgently needed tools to assure the safety and immediate stability of our nation's commercial airline system", Mr Bush said in a statement.

"The terrorists who attacked our country on 11 September will not shut down our vital businesses or thwart our way of life," he added.

On Friday Congress approved the package, which includes $5bn in direct grants to the airlines to compensate them for the losses suffered after the attack and $10bn in loan guarantees.

The US airlines and plane maker Boeing have cut more 100,000 jobs since the attacks, which has prompted a severe fall-off in trade.

Continental has said it will go bankrupt without government aid.

Aircraft were grounded for several days after the atrocities, and carriers have had to cut back schedules by 20% or more because of the declining number of air travellers.

Sky high deal

The aid comes on top of $3bn to upgrade security in airplanes and airports included in $40bn emergency spending that Congress approved last week.

But benefits for the employees who were laid off were not included in the package, prompting some Democrats in the House of Representatives to oppose the bill.

European Union officials said on Thursday they would be looking closely at the US aid package, to see if they need to be matched in Europe.

"We do not want a situation where European airlines are placed in a disadvantageous position," Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said.

Ms de Palacio is scheduled to meet her US counterpart Norman Mineta in Washington on Monday.

'Future threatened'

Airlines will also get war risk insurance for domestic flights, which currently only covers international routes.

Delta Air Lines Chairman Leo Mullin told the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday that without government help, "the future of aviation is threatened."

He indicated that several major airlines are on the verge of bankruptcy.

The investment firm Morgan Stanley, in a letter to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said there will be "no functioning capital markets for the US airline industry" unless the government provides "relief from what would surely be bankruptcy-inducing liability claims against carriers for collateral damage and loss of life" from the attacks.

While the two airlines involved in the hijackings, United and American, would be responsible for suits filed by the families of passengers on the planes, the government would compensate victims on the ground.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Kieran Daly, Air Transport Intelligence
"This makes it easier for the Europeans to do something to help their airlines"
The BBC's Jonny Dymond
"The complete shutdown after the hijackings hammered the airlines"
See also:

21 Sep 01 | Business
Airlines threaten to stop flying
20 Sep 01 | Business
EU considers aid for airlines
19 Sep 01 | Business
US airlines lose 40,000 more jobs
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