France announces USD16.9 billion in aid to aviation industry

PARIS (AP) — France’s government announced EUR15 billion (USD16.9 billion) in rescue money yesterday for the pandemic-battered aerospace industry, including plane maker Airbus and national airline Air France.

The ministers of finance, transport, defence and environment unveiled the rescue plan for an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people in France, whose livelihoods have been thrown into uncertainty by travel restrictions prompted by the virus.

In exchange for the aid, companies will be required to invest more and faster in electric, hydrogen or other lower-emission aircraft, as France aims to make its aviation industry the “cleanest in the world”.

“We will do everything to support this French industry that is so critical for our sovereignty, our jobs and our economy,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

The money includes direct government investment, subsidies, loans and loan guarantees. It also includes a special fund jointly financed by the government, Airbus and other big manufacturers to support small suppliers.

Air France planes are parked on the tarmac at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris on May 17, 2019. PHOTO: AP

It includes EUR7 billion in loans and loan guarantees that the government had already promised to Air France, whose planes were almost entirely grounded by the virus.

Airlines around the world have sought government bailouts as they struggle to survive the near-shutdown in their activity prompted by the virus.

Airbus said it is cutting production by 35 per cent to 40 per cent, and rival Boeing announced during the virus lockdown that it would cut 10 per cent of its 161,000-person work force through attrition, early-out offers and layoffs.

“The recovery will be long,” Le Maire warned. The government predicted it will be 2023 before the industry reaches pre-crisis levels.