aviation

Reopen borders sans quarantine or risk 4.8mln aviation job losses, warns Iata

November 14, 2020

Government intervention urged to prevent employment catastrophe in sector

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) have called for urgent government intervention to prevent an employment catastrophe in the aviation industry.

Estimates from the Air Transport Action Group suggest some 4.8 million aviation workers’ jobs are at risk as a result of air travel demand falling more than 75 per cent in August 2020 compared to August 2019.

The impact of Covid-19-related border restrictions and quarantine measures has effectively closed down the aviation industry, grounding planes and leaving infrastructure and aircraft manufacturing capacity idle.

In a joint statement, Iata and the ITF appealed to governments provide continued financial support for the aviation industry and safely re-open borders without quarantine by implementing a globally harmonised system of pre-departure Covid-19 testing.

“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,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director-general and CEO.

Iata has warned that globally the airline industry will burn through $77 billion in cash during the second half of 2020 — almost $13 billion per month or $300,000 per minute — despite the restart of operations. The slow recovery in air travel will see the airline industry continuing to burn through cash at an average rate of $5 to $6 billion per month in 2021.

According to data from the Air Transport Action Group of which the Iata is a member, 1.7 million Middle East jobs will be lost in aviation and industries supported by aviation in 2020. This is nearly half of the region’s 3.3 million aviation-related employment.

The data estimates that 323,000 jobs in the region will be lost in aviation alone in 2020. This is about 46 per cent of the region’s 595,000 aviation related jobs.

The research highlights the urgency of restarting aviation in the Middle East. GDP supported by aviation in the region will fall by up to $105 billion, 49 per cent below pre Covid-19 level. Normally, aviation contributes $213 billion to the region’s GDP; closing borders has reduced this to $108 billion.

Stephen Cotton, the ITF’s general secretary, said 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. But the catastrophic jobs crisis can be avoided with a clear a coordinated strategy built on relief, recovery and reform.”

The world’s aviation workers are calling on governments to act now, deliver the financial support that will protect their jobs and to commit to working with trade unions and employers to support the industry’s long-term recovery, said Cotton.

“The aviation workforce is a skilled workforce that has been, and will continue to be, vital to nations’ Covid response and recovery. If governments fail to act and support aviation, not only will they hurt the industry, the impacts will be hard felt by society at large,” said Cotton.

In addition to reopening borders with testing and financial support, the organisations also called for governments to develop a roadmap for long-term industry recovery including investment in workforce retraining and upskilling, and in green technologies, especially sustainable aviation fuels.

“The ability and speed that countries recover from Covid-19, is closely linked to the recovery of global air connectivity,” said the joint statement.

“Government intervention and investment therefore must not just provide support for the air transport industry now but also to ensure that it is fit for purpose and able to support the world’s return to normality from the pandemic.”

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