As coronavirus concerns weaken the travel industry, airlines and airport businesses may be able to defer $180 million in payments to the Houston's Airport System.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Chief Development Officer Andy Icken will begin negotiations with airlines, airport concession providers and rental car companies servicing the Houston Airport System on a potential deferred payment plan for rent and certain fees.

Houston City Council approved a measure allowing the negotiations to begin that proposes certain payments to the Houston Airport Fund be deferred from April through the end of November. At the end of that period, regular payments would resume, and deferred payments would begin getting paid back by January 2021, the proposal stated.

“I understand people think this is a big bailout, but our airports are a major, major contributor to our economy,” Council Member Jerry Davis said. “... Any help that we can give them, I think, will help all of us.”

The Houston Airport Fund is considered an enterprise fund, which means it is self-sustaining, and any funds paid into it by airlines and airport businesses are not contributed to the city’s general fund.

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin said he had reservations about allowing the airlines and airport businesses to defer payments, but he said he approved of allowing the city to enter negotiations.

“I think we’re going to see a great deal of consolidation and bankruptcy,” Martin said of the airline industry. “But giving us the opportunity to sit down and talk with them ... will make sure we’ll be paid back in the next couple of months.”