Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 May 2020

Middle East and Africa carriers see revenue losses rise to $30bn as pandemic halts flights

Middle East and Africa flight departures fell 95% by the end of the first quarter compared to January 1 this year

 As the world emerges from a lockdown situation, it is imperative for airlines' survival that their clients return to the skies as soon as possible.  AFP 
 As the world emerges from a lockdown situation, it is imperative for airlines' survival that their clients return to the skies as soon as possible.  AFP 

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) voiced concern about the continued lack of government aid tailored for Middle East and African carriers, who face estimated revenue losses of $30 billion (Dh110.1bn).

The failure to provide aviation-specific aid, despite rolling out billions of dollars in economic stimulus packages to help small businesses and large corporations, is a "worrisome issue," Muhammad Albakri, Iata's regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, told reporters on Thursday at an online conference. Middle East and Africa flight departures fell 95 per cent by the end of the first quarter compared to January 1, 2020.

The trade body expressed concerns that it is taking governments "too long" to give a financial lifeline to regional carriers who are bleeding cash and forced to cut jobs, Mr Albakri said, adding Egypt and Senegal are among the exceptions.

Middle East carriers are forecast to lose $24bn in passenger revenue this year, up from an earlier estaimate of $19bn on April 2, as the Covid-19 pandemic decimates air travel, according to Iata. Middle East flight departures have plunged 88 per cent as of May 17 compared to January 1.

The Middle East could see 1.2 million job losses in aviation and related industries, while aviation's contribution to the region's gross domestic product could fall by $66bn from $130bn, according to Iata.

Estimated African carriers' losses from the pandemic stand at $6bn as flight departures fell 94 per cent as of May 17 compared to January 1, Iata said. The continent could lose 3.1 million jobs and a GDP loss of $28bn from the aviation industry's contribution to the economy.

The Dubai government, earlier this year, pledged financial support for state-owned Emirates, without specifying the amount, to help the world's largest long-haul airline cope with the impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

The UAE has offered a 10 per cent reduction in utilities and infrastructure tarrifs for all its airports, Iata said. Dubai International and DWC have introduced parking waivers, deferrals on payment terms and a freeze for aeronautical charges.

"As the industry starts recovering and getting healthy, we don’t want them to get hammered with charges and fees that will undermine their ability to recover and move forward," Mr Albakri said.

Iata is working on a set of harmonised measures to restart air travel globally in a co-ordinated manner as governments begin to ease lockdown measures aimed at containing the virus.

The trade body is working with 21 nations around the world, including the UAE, to review these measures and suggest recommendations on best practices, Mr Albakri said, without providing details.

The measures will be temporary as the science evolves, more credible testing becomes available and a vaccine is eventually found, he added.

Updated: May 21, 2020 07:26 PM

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