he airlines have asked Congress for an
extraordinary package of relief measures valued at up to $24
billion in cash, plus other benefits. They might not get it all,
but we agree that there are some things that the government ought
We believe American and United should be protected from the huge
liabilities that could stem from the property damage, injuries and
deaths that occurred on the ground when their aircraft were taken
over by suicidal criminals and used to attack public buildings.
Loan guarantees may be appropriate for airlines that might not
otherwise survive a prolonged period of reduced travel demand as
the nation conducts a war on terrorism. And it seems reasonable to
offer financial assistance for security upgrades, such as
retrofitting aircraft with reinforced cockpit doors.
We also believe the time has come to relieve the airlines of the
task of passenger and baggage screening at airports and turn this
function over to trained professionals under the management of a
public safety or law-enforcement agency.
Congress also is considering direct cash payments of up to $5
billion to compensate airlines for the revenue lost when, by
government edict, they were required to ground their fleets.
Perhaps that's fair, too.
But the airlines also asked for billions more from the taxes
that would ordinarily go for air traffic control and airport
improvements, plus antitrust immunity to coordinate their schedules
for up to two years.
At this point we begin to ask ourselves, "Where do we draw the
Clearly, airline companies were very visible victims of the
Sept. 11 attack and its aftermath, but the government doesn't have
to look far to find other travel and nontravel companies that could
be exposed to financial distress in the months ahead.
Congress should not forget them.