The world is just waking up to the enormity of the impact that the coronavirus is having on the global aviation industry and other sectors connected with it. The picture that is emerging is grim.

International bodies like the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have started writing to leaders in different countries to make them aware of the immense task ahead and appealing for help to save their airline industries. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, IATA Director-General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said that the current industry crisis is much worse and more widespread than 9/11, SARS or the Global Financial Crisis.

Jobs, connectivity at risk

The IATA estimates that Covid-19 could result in a 9 per cent loss in passenger volumes and $2.1-billion loss in passenger-based revenues for the air transport market in India in 2020. The disruptions in air travel because of the coronavirus outbreak could also take away about 5,75,000 jobs and $3.2 billion in GDP supported by the air transport industry in India.

In an earlier letter to the heads of government in the Asia Pacific region, de Juniac had said that about 27 lakh airline jobs were at risk. “Each of these jobs supports a further 24 in the travel and tourism value chain. Some governments are already responding to our urgent calls, but not enough to make up the $200 billion needed,” he had said.

Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Regional Vice-President for the Asia Pacific region, added that not only were the over 3 crore jobs supported by the aviation industry at stake but also at risk was aviation connectivity that is needed to support supply chains, the flow of essential goods and medical supplies, as well as repatriation flights to bring home citizens stranded overseas.

The Airports Council International’s (ACI) estimates indicate that the airport industry’s losses could be up to $70 billion. ACI serves over 650 members operating 1,979 airports in 176 countries. Its data shows that airports, directly and indirectly, employ more than 61 lakh people globally, which makes up 60 per cent of all employment in the aviation sector.

According to ACI, a typical large airport with more than 4 crore annual passengers generates, on average, $1.3 billion in annual revenues. In other words, estimated losses are almost equivalent to the entire revenue base of the world’s 50 busiest hubs. This does not take into account the losses that the other service providers at airports will inevitably incur.

“Recognising that the entire aviation ecosystem has been affected by this crisis, financial relief should be non-discriminatory and not benefit one actor at the expense of another actor in the aviation ecosystem,” ACI says.

Proactive measures

In this time of crisis, some bodies are being proactive and have already introduced some measures. For instance, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published templates that may be used by state regulators to notify EASA of the use of flexibility provisions. This allows for extension to the validity periods for licences, ratings, endorsements, certificates and attestations of aircrew, instructors, examiners, aircraft maintenance licence holders and air traffic controllers as well as extension of Airworthiness Review Certificates.

Similarly, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has recognised the need for flexibility in the delivery of classroom training and for the completion of recurrent training requirements. It has also granted the ability to extend the validity periods to some elements of training applicable to pilots, engineers, cabin crew and dispatchers.