IATA warns that 25 million jobs are at risk

Siobháin Spear
Apr 8, 2020

The International Air Transport Association is hoping passengers will accept vouchers instead of insisting on refunds from airlines.

Last month, IATA called on urgent support for airlines in response to the impact that COVID-19 would have on the aviation industry, alongside related travel and tourism sectors. Now, the airline association is ramping up efforts to communicate the economic damage that will be caused if plans are not carefully put in place to assist airlines once the virus has been contained.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents some 290 airlines, comprising 82% of global air traffic, has spoken out about the state of the airline industry and highlighted that 25 million jobs are at risk of being lost. The association has released a series of messages communicating the damage that could be caused as a result of air travel downturn and held out against offering refunds to passengers as cash reserves are running out.

How travel restrictions are putting jobs at risk

In a statement released on April 7, IATA stated that the livelihoods of some 65.5 million people around the globe are dependent on the aviation industry, including sectors such as travel and tourism. Of these 65.5 million, 2.7 million are airline jobs.

In a scenario of severe travel restrictions lasting for three months, IATA research calculates that 25 million jobs in aviation and related sectors are endangered across the world. Releasing infographics to communicate this message on the IATA Twitter account, the association noted the economies where those 25 million at-risk jobs are based:

  • 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

What needs to be done to minimize job losses?

According to Reuters, IATA Director General Alexandre De Juniac said that airlines are facing $35 billion of potential refund claims by the end of this quarter and hoped that passengers would accept vouchers instead.

Speaking to reporters in a press briefing on April 7, De Juniac said: “The key element for us is to avoid running out of cash so refunding the cancelled ticket for us is almost unbearable financially speaking,”

Currently, airlines are burning through cash reserves as they try to stay afloat. IATA has said that providing refunds for cancelled flights, due to rules in many parts of the world, such as the European Union, is not possible.

IATA has stepped up its efforts to communicate the risks and impact on the world economy if governments allow airlines to collapse. Airlines are calling on governments to provide immediate financial aid in order to remain viable businesses that are able to lead the recovery when the pandemic is contained. Specifically, the IATA has called for:

  • Direct financial support
  • Loans, loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market
  • 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 Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

What can travellers do to support the industry?

It’s likely that most of us have a friend or family member that works within the aviation, tourism or wider travel sector. While travel restrictions have kept us all at home and many of us have missed out on trips, the time will come where we will start to travel again, so here’s three ways you can think about helping the industry, and all the affected jobs, from your sofa:

  • Instead of asking for a cash refund on your airline ticket or hotel booking, request a voucher that can be redeemed at a later stage
  • If you consider yourself an innovator or you have a start up that can help, pitch solutions to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) by April 15
  • Help small businesses in your country or in hard-hit countries around the world by making purchases through them or making a donation

In response to the impact on aviation, the Dubai Government pledged its support to Emirates last week. Will Middle East airlines follow in its footsteps with similar announcements? For all the jobs at risk, we certainly hope so.

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