Among the long list of recipients of the U.S. Payment Protection Program (PPP) is Korean Air, the largest airline in South Korea. Why would a South Korean airline receive PPP funding from the USA?
Why Did Korean Air Receive PPP Funding?
Korean Air received between $5 – 10 million from PPP. These loans, some of which are forgivable, were intended to keep people employed during the pandemic in businesses that would otherwise be viable. Korean Air not only offers widebody service to several U.S. gateways, but also has extensive cargo operations. The pandemic resulted in a total disruption of its passenger service and forced the carrier to suspend most U.S. operations.
Consequently, Korean Air applied for PPP to keep as many of its 500 employees based in the USA on the payroll. These include office staff, cargo staff, and airline/lounge staff. The $5-10 million figure is not because it is not clear much Korean Air received but because the U.S. government only placed major PPP recipients in broader categories. Specific awards were not revealed. You can review the entire list here of all companies who received more than $150,000 in aid.
Korean Air, or most succinctly the Cho family which owns a controlling interest Korean Air, also owns the Korean Air building in downtown Los Angles which houses the InterContinental Hotel. It would not surprise me if additional loans were made available to other entities like this hotel. Overall, though, if the PPP funds were used to keep U.S. workers employed under the parameters of the program, it seems a lot more appropriate than stories like this.
image: Korean Air