International airline body calls for urgent help for Mideast carriers amid coronavirus

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. (File/Middle East Airlines)
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Updated 03 April 2020

International airline body calls for urgent help for Mideast carriers amid coronavirus

  • The latest IATA scenario for potential revenue loss by carriers in Africa and the Middle East has reached $23 billion
  • 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

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.


Arab News recording exposes Nissan lawyer’s lie on IMF bailout for Lebanon

Updated 01 June 2020

Arab News recording exposes Nissan lawyer’s lie on IMF bailout for Lebanon

LONDON: Arab News has published the recording of an interview with a Nissan lawyer after he denied saying that a bailout of Lebanon by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was linked to the extradition of fugitive tycoon Carlos Ghosn.

The former Nissan chairman fled to Beirut in December from Japan, where he faced charges of financial wrongdoing.

In a story published in Arab News Japan on Saturday, Sakher El Hachem, Nissan’s legal representative in Lebanon, said the multibillion-dollar IMF bailout was contingent on Ghosn being handed back to Japan. 

The lawyer said IMF support for Lebanon required Japan’s agreement. Lebanese officials had told him: “Japan will assist Lebanon if Ghosn gets extradited,” the lawyer said

“For Japan to agree on that they want the Lebanese authorities to extradite Ghosn, otherwise they won’t provide Lebanon with financial assistance. Japan is one of the IMF’s major contributors … if Japan vetoes Lebanon then the IMF won’t give Lebanon money, except after deporting Ghosn.”

On Sunday, El Hachem denied making the comments. “The only thing I told the newspaper was that there should have been a court hearing on April 30 in Lebanon, but it was postponed because of the pandemic,” he said. In response, Arab News published the recording of the interview, in which he can be clearly heard making the statements attributed to him. 

Japan issued an arrest warrant after Ghosn, 66, escaped house arrest and fled the country.

Now listen to the recording: