Up to USD 200 billion (which translates to about Rs 1.5 lakh crore) is needed to rescue the world's airlines during the coronavirus crisis, the global aviation association said on Thursday, appealing especially to African and Middle Eastern countries to provide emergency assistance.
"Support measures are urgently needed," the International Air Transport Association said in a statement, adding that "on a global basis, IATA estimates that emergency aid of up to $200 billion is required".
Airlines worldwide face an unprecedented existential threat as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 9,000 people around the world, shuts down global travel. "Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is the top priority of governments," IATA chief Alexandre de Juniac said in the statement. "But they must be aware that the public health emergency has now become a catastrophe for economies and for aviation," he said, pointing out that "the scale of the current industry crisis is much worse and far more widespread than 9/11, SARS or the 2008 global financial crisis."
"Airlines are fighting for survival," he said, warning that "millions of jobs are at stake." IATA expressed particular concern for the situation in Africa and the Middle East, where many routes have been suspended, and where demand has fallen by as much of 60 per cent on the remaining routes. It pointed out that the air transport industry's economic contribution in Africa alone is estimated at $55.8 billion, supporting 6.2 million jobs and contributing 2.6 per cent of the continent's gross domestic product (GDP). In the Middle East, the contribution stands at $130 billion, some 4.4 per cent of GDP, supporting 2.4 million jobs, it said.
"Airlines need urgent government action if they are to emerge from this in a fit state to help the world recover, once COVID-19 is beaten," Juniac said.
Carriers across Africa and the Middle East had begun implementing extensive cost-cutting measures to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic, IATA said but warned that airlines in the regions on average held enough cash reserves for approximately two months.
"Due to flight bans as well as international and regional travel restrictions, airlines' revenues are plummeting (and) outstripping the scope of even the most drastic cost-containment measures," it said.
IATA called on governments to provide support in various ways, including through direct financial aid to passenger and cargo carriers, loans and loan guarantees and tax relief.