MIAMI – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released today a new study showing that some 25 million jobs are at risk of being lost as demand for air travel has plummeted amid the COVID-19 crisis.

According to IATA’s press release, the livelihoods of some 65.5 million people are dependent on the aviation industry worldwide, out of which 2.7 million are airlines jobs.

Taking into account the “severe travel restrictions” that could last three months (Q2), IATA’s analysis concludes that 25 million jobs in aviation and related sectors worldwide are at risk. Here’s the breakdown by region:

  • 11.2 million jobs in Asia-Pacific
  • 5.6 million jobs in Europe
  • 2.9 million jobs in Latin America
  • 2.0 million jobs in North America
  • 2.0 million jobs in Africa
  • 0.9 million jobs in the Middle East

IATA’s latest analysis calculates that airlines are expected to see full-year passenger revenues drop by $252bn (-44%) in 2020 compared to 2019. Q2 will also see passenger demand falling 70% and airlines burning through US$61bn of their cash reserves, posting a quarterly net loss of US$39bn.

Airlines worldwide are calling on governments to provide immediate financial aid to help them remain afloat and recover when the pandemic is contained. IATA on its part calls for direct financial support; loans, loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market; and tax relief.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said “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.”

De Juniac added that airlines must be viable businesses so they can lead the recovery when the pandemic is contained. “A lifeline to the airlines now is critical.”

IATA on how to reboot the industry

In addition to the financial relief being called for, IATA understands that the industry will also need careful planning and coordination to make sure 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,” said de Juniac, adding that at the practical level, the industry would need contingencies for licenses and certifications that have expired.

There would also be the need to adapt operations and processes to avoid reinfections via imported cases, finding a “predictable and efficient approach to managing travel restrictions” that need to be lifted before re-booting normal operations on a global scale.

The task ahead is, therefore, a government-industry joint effort. when the time comes, IATA stresses that a multi-stakeholder approach will be essential, starting with a series of virtual meetings—or summits—on a regional basis, bringing together governments and industry stakeholders.

The main objectives of the summits, to be confirmed in the expectation of a start before the end of April, will be to understand what is needed to re-open closed borders and to agree on solutions that can be operationalized and scaled efficiently.

The Association also understands that once the reboot happens, the industry will not be in the same shape as before the virus oubreak. While carriers will still connect the world through a variety of business models, the industry processes will need to adapt to a new post-pandemic reality.

IATA’s CEO concluded today’s press release with the following:

“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.” 

Article written by Helwing Villamizar