Aviation industry leaders say 4.8 million jobs at risk globally without government intervention

Full-year air traffic is expected to be 66 per cent lower this year than last, according to industry body

MANCHESTER,  - SEPTEMBER 23:  An empty check in area at Manchester Airport after Thomas Cook collapsed at Manchester Airport on September 23, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The collapse of the 178-year-old travel firm triggered a massive repatriation effort, as the British Civil Aviation Authority chartered aircraft to bring around 150,000 travelers back to the UK. The firm's closure also jeopardized 22,000 jobs worldwide, including 9,000 in the UK. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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A plunge in air travel has put 4.8 million jobs in the aviation industry at risk unless there is concerted government action to provide financial support to the industry and to safely reopen borders, according to two key stakeholder groups.

The International Air Transport Association and the International Transport Workers’ Federation issued a joint statement calling for urgent government intervention to prevent widespread job losses in the industry.

“Aviation faces an unprecedented employment catastrophe. Airlines have cut costs to the bone, but have just 8.5 months of cash left under current conditions. Tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost, and unless governments provide more financial relief, these are likely to increase to the hundreds of thousands," Alexandre de Juniac, Iata's director general and chief executive, said.

He argued that the role aviation plays in connecting nations and carrying essential cargo means "it is in governments’ own interests to offer further financial aid to keep the industry viable".

Iata expects full-year traffic for 2020 to be 66 per cent lower than last year and said last month that total industry revenues next year are expected to by 46 per cent lower than in 2019, at $838 billion. Airlines would need to cut unit costs by a further 30 per cent to stop haemorrhaging cash, but such as decline would be unprecedented. It would also be difficult given that most aircraft are leased and would require wholesale job cuts of 40 per cent or more to return to 2019 productivity levels.

“The global aviation industry is in a state of prolonged crisis. By the end of the year, almost 80 per cent of wage replacement schemes will run out, without urgent intervention from governments we will witness the biggest jobs crisis the industry has ever seen," said Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation.

This can be avoided if governments approve a globally-harmonised system of pre-departure Covid-19 testing allowing for passengers to travel more freely without facing quarantine restrictions, the two organisations argued in the joint statement.

It is not clear whether the introduction of such a system would be enough to convince passengers to fly again, though.

A survey of 10,000 frequent flyers by London-based Inmarsat found that 83 per cent do not intend to resume their travel regime even after the virus is under control, with 31 per cent planning to fly less frequently.

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