On November 20th, at the Paris Air Forum, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) stated that the industry still needs $70-80 billion in additional aid. The remarks were made by the industry group’s director general, Alexandre de Juniac.
Despite having a number of viable vaccines on the horizon, it is generally expected that global distribution to safe and acceptable levels will take months. Now, and over much of 2021, airlines will continue to see reduced travel demand as the global health crisis drags on.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
More needed from governments
According to Reuters, de Juniac expressed gratitude for what governments around the world have already contributed to their respective airlines but stated that more is needed to survive the crisis.
“We are extremely grateful to them for having injected $160 billion into the sector…For the coming months, the industry’s needs are evaluated at $70-80 billion in additional aid. Otherwise some airlines will not survive.” -Alexandre de Juniac, Director General, IATA
De Juniac also noted that it is quite probable that the industry will be looking at bigger losses than the figures IATA initially announced, saying that the full-year deficit would likely approach $100 billion.
Months from vaccine distribution, years from a full recovery
As winter rapidly approaches in the northern hemisphere and subsequent waves of outbreaks combine with flu season, a vaccine is needed more than ever. To date, promising data has come out from several biopharmaceutical groups working on the vaccine, including Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford University.
Airports and airlines and their cargo divisions have been preparing in earnest for this, issuing press releases touting their readiness to handle high volumes of vaccine through their hubs and facilities.
Indeed, in just the last month, we’ve already heard from the following airlines about their readiness to distribute a vaccine:
- Emirates SkyCargo and its ‘world’s-first dedicated airside cargo hub’ at SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal at Dubai South.
- Finnair being the first to receive IATA’s pharmaceutical air cargo certification
- KLM and its strong freight network, already experienced with widespread PPE distribution
Despite the fantastic vaccine news and the aviation industry’s readiness, widespread distribution will take time as this crisis has reached an unprecedented geographical scale. Meanwhile, the crisis has already had a devastating impact on many sectors of the global economy, while some industries have embraced technology to compensate for business travel. This will, in turn, lead to a lengthy recovery period to pre-pandemic levels of travel.
Indeed, IATA has predicted a return to pre-crisis traffic levels by 2024, with passenger numbers to be down 30% in 2021.
The devastation thus far
The devastation to the air travel industry has already been extensive. Carriers worldwide have collectively retired hundreds of large and/or old inefficient aircraft. While some of these jets were already facing retirement, the crisis has undoubtedly brought the timeline forward. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of airline industry workers have been laid off – from cabin crew to pilots to ticketing agents.
Many airlines are hoping for financial assistance during this time. With advocation from IATA, the hope is that when it’s safe to travel again, there will be an industry healthy enough to meet this demand.