Seven months since the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, aviation continues to be one of the worst hit business sectors from this crisis. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that the industry will not recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024. Support to the aviation sector – an industry that has repatriated citizens and kept supply chains and crucial medical equipment moving throughout the pandemic – has been insufficient to prevent thousands of job losses. Globally some 4.8 million aviation workers’ jobs are at risk.
It is clear now that air transport is in a prolonged crisis. Governments need a clear and coordinated strategy to rebuild aviation, comprising immediate financial support, replacing quarantine requirements with systematic testing of passengers, and working with employers and trade unions to support the industry’s long-term recovery.
The global aviation industry has a highly skilled workforce that is necessary for the resilience of nations’ response to the pandemic through the transportation of medical supplies and other critical supply chains, and to the repatriation of citizens and key workers. Aviation professionals have worked through the pandemic despite huge challenges and health risks. There have been cases of unruly and disruptive passenger aggression as cabin crew maintain critical safety requirements such as the wearing of facemasks throughout passenger journeys. Their health and safety must be a priority for governments.
Airlines and aviation professionals are grateful to those governments that have aided the industry during the shutdown. Some $160 billion in aid has been given which has been crucial to prevent an even worse economic and social catastrophe. Despite this help, revenues are expected to close the year over 62% down compared to 2019 and airlines continue to burn through cash at the rate of $300,000 a day. The imminent closure of 70% of the current wage subsidy programs will mean maintaining employment at current levels will be unsustainable. Without immediate action from governments to further support the industry, the situation will trigger a massive jobs crisis.
The ability and speed that countries recover from Covid-19, is closely linked to the recovery of global air connectivity. 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.
IATA and ITF therefore call on the world’s governments to:
- Provide continued financial support for the aviation industry.
- Prioritize a globally harmonized systematic pre-departure testing scheme for all passengers.
- Communicate to citizens the need to follow biosafety protocols such as wearing face masks during air travel and the sanctions that may be imposed for failure to do so as a deterrent to unruly and disruptive behavior
- Encourage investment in green technologies especially sustainable aviation fuels, to help the industry build back better from COVID-19.
- Develop a roadmap for long-term industry recovery, including investment in workforce retraining and upskilling.