The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) are warning that 4.8 million workers in the aviation sector could lose their jobs with states’ intervention as the COVID-19 crisis takes a toll on air travel.
According to IATA, border restrictions and quarantine measures being deployed by various governments to contain the coronavirus pandemic has seen demand for air travel fall more than 75% in eight months to August this year compared to the same period last year.
As a result, the crisis has effectively closed down the aviation industry, grounding planes and leaving infrastructure and aircraft manufacturing capacity idle.
“Aviation faces an unprecedented employment catastrophe. Airlines have cut costs to the bone, but have just 8.5 months of cash left under current conditions. Tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost, and unless governments provide more financial relief, these are likely to increase to the hundreds of thousands,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
Flag carrier Kenya Airways which was operating five weekly flights on the Nairobi-New York route before the coronavirus outbreak in March announced on 31st October 2020, the postponement of scheduled flight resumption on the route to 29th November 2020 on account of increased ticket cancellations.
The surge in COVID-19 and fear of the deadly second wave in various countries have seen a rollback of some restrictions which could further dent air travel going into next year.
“Aviation plays an essential role in connecting nations and carrying essential cargo, and it is in governments’ own interests to offer further financial aid to keep the industry viable. But more importantly, governments need to work together to safely re-open borders. That means putting in place a global scheme for testing passengers for COVID-19. With that in place, quarantine can be removed and passengers can have the confidence to fly again,” Juniac added.
Kenya was among the first countries to deploy health safety measures targeting the aviation sector before opening its airspace for domestic and international flights on 1st August 2020.
“The global aviation industry is in a state of prolonged crisis. By the end of the year, almost 80% of wage replacement schemes will run out, without urgent intervention from governments we will witness the biggest jobs crisis the industry has ever seen,” warned Stephen Cotton, ITF’s General Secretary.
According to Statista, airlines worldwide have received government aid amounting to $161.9 billion as of September 2020.