“Let’s remind everyone why we shouldn’t bail out airlines. Yes, the coronavirus crisis is both a public health and an economic tragedy. But this doesn’t justify the government granting special privileges to private firms, at least not without those firms first taking other available steps to potentially avoid the need for a bailout.
There are other options they could pursue.
First, the airlines still have plenty of access to private capital markets. They own significant amounts of durable assets that they can sell or use as collateral to get additional financing. Indeed, they’ve been able to secure substantial private capital since the beginning of the pandemic.
Second, if private financing fails, some airlines can and should do what they’ve done in the past when in such a predicament: declare bankruptcy. Past bankruptcies tell us that airlines can continue flying safely even during a bankruptcy, so there’s no systemic risk posed to the economy at large.
To be sure, bankruptcy would mean that, for the time being, airlines may fly on more limited routes. But that shouldn’t be a problem in light of a collapse in demand, which won’t be resolved as long as Americans remain wary of flying.
There’s no easy solution during this pandemic. Many people and businesses have no options at all. But an airline bailout would bring about more negative consequences. The first is that it’s a huge expense for taxpayers to shoulder with no promise for a solid return. We’ve already bailed out the airlines, and all this past coddling has done is to postpone the inevitable layoffs of its excess employees.
Analysts don’t think air travel will return to prepandemic levels for several years—some say up to seven. Let’s assume that it takes five years for air travel to return to its previous level. That would require taxpayers to extend up to $320 billion in bailout funds to the airlines.”