LONDON: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged Middle East governments to support their airlines with regional revenues expected to plunge by almost 40 percent this year as the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) paralyzes global travel.
The latest IATA scenario for potential revenue loss by carriers in Africa and the Middle East has reached $23 billion ($19 billion in the Middle East and $4 billion in Africa).
That would translate into a drop of industry revenues this year of 32 percent for Africa and 39 percent for the Middle East, home to some of the biggest hubs for global travel. IATA estimates that the industry supports 8.6 million jobs across the Middle East and Africa and is responsible for generating some $186 billion in GDP.
“Airlines are fighting for survival in every corner of the world,” said Muhammad Al-Bakri, IATA’s regional vice president. “Failure by Governments to act now will make this crisis longer and more painful. Airlines have demonstrated their value in economic and social development in Africa and the Middle East and governments need to prioritize them in rescue packages. Healthy airlines will be essential to jump-start the Middle East and global economies post-crisis.”
The aviation body has called for more help from governments in the form of direct financial support, loan guarantees and tax relief. It cited examples such as the deferral of VAT refund payment dates in Saudi Arabia and financial relief extended by governments in the UAE, Angola, Rwanda and Jordan.
In addition to financial support, IATA called for regulators to support cargo operations including fast track procedures to obtain overflight and landing permit and exempting flight crew members from 14-day quarantine.
“Some regulators are taking positive action,” said Al-Bakri. “We are grateful to Ghana, Morocco, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa for agreeing a full-season waiver to the slot use rule. This will enable airlines and airports greater flexibility for this season and greater certainty for summer. But there is more to do on the regulatory front. Governments need to recognize that we are in a crisis.”
Emirates Airline said Thursday it will resume a limited number of outbound passenger flights from April 6.
“Emirates has received approval from UAE authorities to restart flying a limited number of passenger flights,” its chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, said on Twitter.
“From April 6, these flights will initially carry travelers outbound from UAE,” he said. He added that further details would be announced soon.