Iata warns 25 million jobs at risk as air travel demand plunges due to coronavirus outbreak

Industry to hold talks with government and health authorities on ways to safely re-start air travel

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac attends an interview with Reuters on the consequences of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Geneva, Switzerland, March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
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The International Air Transport Association said 25 million jobs are at risk worldwide as air travel demand collapses due to the coronavirus outbreak and urged governments to quickly implement pledges of financial support for carriers.

The industry also plans to hold meetings with governments, health authorities and other stakeholders about the conditions required to restart air travel safely once it gets the go-ahead, Alexandre de Juniac, director general of Iata, said on an online conference call on Tuesday.

"We had very open and supportive attitude from governments, they announced significant rescue packages, but now we desperately need this to be implemented and this money to flow in," Mr de Juniac said. "Whatever the measure is, we need it now ... we are urgently running out of cash and need cash injections by any means."

The plea comes as the number of flights globally is estimated to drop 70 per cent in the beginning of the second quarter, with Europe seeing the worst decline at 90 per cent, due to country lockdowns aimed at containing the virus, according to Iata. Globally, 65.5 million jobs depend on the aviation industry, of which 2.7 million are airline jobs. One job in airlines supports 24 jobs in the wider economy, highlighting the wider impact to the global economy from the industry's woes.

Of the 25 million jobs in aviation and related sectors at risk of disappearing globally, 11.2 million of these are in Asia-Pacific, Iata said. About 5.6 million jobs in Europe are at risk, 2 million in North America,  2 million in Africa and 900,000 in the Middle East, according to the organisation.

About one third of the 2.7 million employees of global airlines have faced furloughs or job losses, Brian Pearce, chief economist at Iata told reporters on Tuesday, though precise figures are still unavailable.

The aviation industry is also tackling planning and co-ordination between stakeholders to restart operations once the pandemic is contained, following a period of shutdown.

"We cannot leave the recovery of the sector to chance, we must have firm plans in place" for when governments and health authorities give the go-ahead for air travel, Mr de Juniac said.

Iata is planning a series of regional meetings in the second half of April to discuss conditions for re-starting operations, which is complicated by a prolonged shutdown, he said. This includes conditions for re-opening borders, returning personnel, handling expired pilot licenses and passenger screening, as well as cost-effective and health-protective ways to ensure the safety of air travel.

"The main question about coming back to a normal situation is how and at which conditions will governments lift the barriers on travel," he said.