COVID-19: As 25m Aviation Workers Face Job Losses

Alexandre de Juniac

Chinedu Eze

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that the global aviation industry might lose about 25 million jobs by the time the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 is over.

The world body made this known in a new report released on Tuesday, which showed that some 25 million jobs are at risk of disappearing with plummeting demand for air travel amid the COVID-19 crisis.

IATA said globally, the livelihoods of some 65.5 million people are dependent on the aviation industry, including sectors such as travel and tourism.

IATA said among these are 2.7 million airlines jobs, noting that in a scenario of severe travel restrictions lasting for three months.
IATA research calculated that 25 million jobs in aviation and related sectors are endangered across the world.

The association estimated the job losses region by region and explained that 11.2 million jobs would be lost in Asia-Pacific; 5.6 million jobs would be lost in Europe; 2.9 million jobs would be lost in Latin America; two million jobs would be lost in North America; two million jobs would be lost in in Africa, while 0.9 million jobs would be in the Middle East.

“In the same scenario, airlines are expected to see full year passenger revenues fall by $252 billion (-44%) in 2020 compared to 2019. The second quarter is the most critical with demand falling 70 per cent at its worst point, and airlines burning through $61 billion in cash,” IATA said.

The global body therefore urged governments to provide immediate financial aid to help airlines to remain viable businesses, able to lead the recovery when the pandemic is contained. Specifically, IATA called for direct financial support, loans, loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market and tax relief.

“There are no words to adequately describe the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the airline industry and the economic pain will be shared by 25 million people who work in jobs dependent upon airlines.

“Airlines must be viable businesses so that they can lead the recovery when the pandemic is contained. A lifeline to the airlines now is critical,” said IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.

IATA stated that alongside vital financial relief, the industry would also need careful planning and coordination to ensure that airlines are ready when the pandemic is contained.

“We have never shuttered the industry on this scale before. Consequently, we have no experience in starting it up. It will be complicated. At the practical level, we will need contingencies for licenses and certifications that have expired.

“We will have to adapt operations and processes to avoid reinfections via imported cases. And we must find a predictable and efficient approach to managing travel restrictions, which need to be lifted before we can get back to work.

“These are just some of the major tasks that are ahead of us. And to be successful, industry and government must be aligned and working together,” said de Juniac.

He also said IATA was scoping a comprehensive approach to re-booting the industry when governments and public health authorities allow and that a multi-stakeholder approach would be essential, adding that one initial step would be a series of virtual meetings—or summits—on a regional basis, bringing together governments and industry stakeholders.

The main objectives of the meeting included understanding what was needed to re-open closed borders, and agreeing solutions that can be operationalised and scaled efficiently

“We are not expecting to re-start the same industry that we closed a few weeks ago. Airlines will still connect the world. And we will do that through a variety of business models. But the industry processes will need to adapt. “We must get on with this work quickly. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes made after 9.11 when many new processes were imposed in an uncoordinated way.

“We ended up with a mess of measures that we are still sorting out today. The 25 million people whose jobs are at risk by this crisis will depend on an efficient re-start of the industry,” said de Juniac.

Summit dates are being confirmed in the expectation of a start before the end of April, IATA said.

In Nigeria, to combat the negative effect of the lockdown and protect jobs, industry stakeholders said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) should slash the sales tax by 50 per cent; the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) should slash the landing and parking fees by 50 per cent, and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) should slash the navigational fees by 50 per cent only for domestic airlines for a period of one year.

The stakeholders noted that the airlines would not be able to raise ticket and freight prices because the entire economy would be down.
They also added that this was the way the operators can retain most of their personnel and not sack many of their workers.