U.S. Senate offers $58 bln aid to airlines as they struggle to stay airborne

U.S. carriers have a lifeline.

Late Wednesday (March 25) the Senate unanimously passed a bill to give its carriers $58 billion in aid, including payroll support.

The bill has restrictions on stock buybacks, dividends and executive pay, and allows the government to take equity.

It's part of America's $2 trillion economic rescue package to tackle the pandemic.

And others might need to follow suit.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents airlines, said it has written to heads of governments in the Asia-Pacific region for emergency support for carriers.

Singapore Airlines said on Thursday that "it's apocalypse now" for airlines.

It went into a rare trading halt pending an announcement, days after it said it would ground almost its entire fleet

IATA estimates the crisis will reduce passenger demand in Asia-Pacific alone by 37% this year with a loss of $88 billion.

Facing the worst travel downturn in history, some airlines are changing tack.

Delta and Air New Zealand have joined a growing number of carriers offering cargo charter services on passenger planes to boost revenue.

About half of the world's air cargo normally travels in the bellies of passenger planes rather than dedicated craft.

The cancellation of passenger flights has led to a sharp reduction in cargo capacity.

And red tape is holding up medical and other emergency supplies needed to help tackle the virus crisis.