Last October, after a $25 billion bailout in grants and a similar amount in loans, the airline industry was looking for more money. At the start of the pandemic the major carriers threatened massive layoffs if they didn't get federal grants to help them out after people were too scared to get in a fuselage incubator to spread Covid and weren't booking flights.
The airline industry is consistently singled out for favored treatment in economic calamities. That industry truly does not deserve it because consistently their CEO's have used the money to enrich themselves and spend it on stock buybacks. Thanks to weak antitrust enforcement, airlines reaped flush profits. 2015 and beyond were the best years for the industry ever.
Despite the history of airlines bleeding cash in recessions — and therefore needing to preserve capital for later — from 2014 through 2019 the big four carriers (American, Delta, United and Southwest) plowed $42 billion into stock repurchases in the hope of improving their share prices. $13 Billion from American Airlines alone. In a six year period the CEO's of the major 4 carriers pocketed of $340 Million in stock purchases.
Since the pandemic, airline stocks have plunged. Executives got rich anyway while delivering mediocre or worse returns because their pay was calibrated over short-term periods. Usually that is a problem for the shareholders who coughed up the investment. But not when the government steps in and refuses to demand that the airline industry maintain adequate capital. Since the airline industry has done this before they already know (like large banks who do the same) that they can take risks and reap the benefits when times are good and always get a bailout when times are bad and still clean up. The pandemic bailout came with a few restrictions this time, but for only two years.
They refused to forego their gains and the federal government refuses to force them to. They do not and will not maintain solvency and this scenario with them will repeat itself over and over. CEO's will pocket whatever they can grab and next time we will again pay that handful of people their self enrichment guarantee when they threaten layoffs and call themselves a danger to national security if they fail.