6 ways the new COVID-19 relief bill impacts the travel industry

Dec 28, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

After months of wrangling in Congress, President Donald Trump signed a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill Dec. 27 that included $900 billion in COVID-19 relief to offer more help to citizens and businesses as the pandemic rages on. Tucked into that bill were measures designed to help the travel industry, which has been decimated as global travel plummeted in 2020.

Part of the $2 trillion CARES Act Congress passed in March 2020 included the Payroll Support Program, which gave airlines $25 billion to keep them afloat during pandemic-related shutdowns, but that ran out Sept. 30. As a result, carriers were forced to lay off more than 35,000 workers as passenger numbers plummeted. And airline chiefs pushed Congress to provide more relief to the industry.

They got their wish with the signing of a second relief bill. Below we highlight six travel-friendly measures included in the new spending package.

Payroll protection

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

The bill extended payroll protections to aviation workers at a cost of $15 billion. In return, airlines are required to bring back furloughed workers and keep them on the payroll until March 31, 2021. Southwest Airlines, which had sent out layoff notices, will now avoid having to make the first job cuts and pay cuts in its 49-year history, said CEO Gary Kelly in a statement. He added he also didn’t “anticipate the need to conduct any furloughs or pay cuts next year.”

Airline contractors also received $1 billion under the measure for their workers.

Related: Should Congress dole out more money for airline employees? The case for and against


(Image courtesy of Salt Lake City International Airport)

Airports and their concessionaires received $2 billion in relief. With far fewer passengers spending money in airport terminals, hundreds of retail, food and service businesses have been forced to close. U.S. airports are facing at least $14 billion in losses because of the global health pandemic, according to trade group Airports Council International – North America.


Amtrak Empire Builder nears Glacier National Park. (Photo courtesy Amtrak)

The passenger rail company received $1 billion in the package. It was needed, since Amtrak ridership nose-dived, causing major service cuts and more than $800 million in losses for the country’s already struggling national rail service. Amtrak already received $1 billion in CARES Act funding. It is also requesting $4.9 billion to retain service and another $5.2 billion for construction and capital investment in the 2021 federal budget.

Related: I traveled on Amtrak during the pandemic — here are 5 things that have changed


(AFP via Getty Images)

A November survey of American Hotel & Lodging Association members found that seven in 10 hoteliers said they won’t make it another six months without more financial relief from Congress. Without further government assistance (i.e., second Paycheck Protection Program loan, expansion of the Main Street Lending Program), nearly half of respondents indicated they would be forced to close hotels.

While the new COVID-19 relief law did not include direct aid to hotels, it did include $325 billion for small businesses, including nearly $284 billion for first and second forgivable PPP loans. While large hospitality companies such as Marriott International and Hilton Hotels & Resorts don’t qualify for these loans, independent businesses that operate under these brands can apply for funds.

Related: As CARES Act confusion reigns, small businesses lose

Aircraft safety

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are parked on the tarmac after being grounded at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, on March 28, 2019. (Photo by Mark Ralston/Getty Images)

The FAA received $275 million over five years to beef up its aircraft certification process in the wake of the Boeing 737 MAX grounding. The agency also received $27 million a year through fiscal year 2023 to recruit and retain engineers, safety inspectors, human factors specialists and scientific and technical advisors, among others.

COVID-19 vaccines

(Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images)

Efforts to get COVID-19 vaccines distributed received $69 billion in aid. That includes more than $30 billion to procure vaccines and treatments, distribution funds for states and a strategic stockpile. It also provides $22 billion for testing, tracing and mitigation and $9 billion for health care providers.

Featured photo courtesy of American Airlines

Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card

Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy Bonus Points after spending $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 8/31/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.99% - 26.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.