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American Airlines, unions make new push to win government payroll assistance

David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

By David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker and seven major airline unions on Wednesday made a new push to win additional government assistance to keep nearly 20,000 workers on the payroll past Oct. 1.

In a letter to congressional leaders, the White House and Treasury, Parker and the unions warned "nearly 20,000 American Airlines team members are facing furloughs in just two short weeks, and several markets in our domestic network are at risk of significant reductions in air service."

The letter implored the leaders "to find a way to work together to reach agreement on a COVID-19 relief bill that includes a clean extension" of payroll support.

The letter added: "Our conversations with each of you suggest a deal is within reach, and there is no time to waste."

Last month, American said it planned to suspend flights to 15 smaller U.S. airports in October as travel demand remains low due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress has been weighing for weeks whether to grant U.S. airlines another $25 billion in payroll assistance that would keep tens of thousands of airline workers on the job for another six months and extend minimum service requirements.

American said it will cancel just over 700 flights in October to and from those 15 airports but added it could reconsider cuts if Congress provides more assistance.

Major U.S. airlines that received portions of $25 billion in payroll assistance were required by the U.S. Transportation Department to maintain minimum flights through Sept. 30, but the government could opt to extend those requirements. American received $5.8 billion in payroll assistance. (Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Aurora Ellis)