More than half of the Middle East region’s aviation-related jobs are at risk because of the shutdown of air traffic due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
That is according to the International Air Transport Association, which estimates that job losses in aviation and related industries could grow to 1.5 million. That is more than half of the region’s 2.4 million aviation-related employment and 300,000 more than the previous estimate.
“Middle East economies have been brought to their knees by Covid-19,” said Muhammad Al Bakri, IATA’s regional VP for Africa and the Middle East. “And without air connectivity being re-established, the socio-economic impact is getting worse.”
“Businesses which contribute substantially to the region’s GDP and provide thousands of jobs are at risk without these vital connections. For the region’s economic recovery, it is imperative that the industry restart safely as soon as possible,” he said.
Full-year 2020 air traffic is expected to plummet by 56% compared to 2019, compared to IATA’s previous estimate of 51%. GDP supported by aviation in the region could fall by up to $85 billion, compared to the previous estimate of $66 billion.
IATA said that an accelerated recovery of air transport across the region is paramount to minimize the impact on jobs in the Middle East.
Some countries in the Middle East are opening their borders to regional and international air travel but inconsistent application of biosafety measures along with unnecessary entry requirements are deterring passengers and suppressing the resumption of air travel, IATA said.
It also encouraged further direct financial aid such as wage subsidies and loans, an extension of the waiver to the 80-20 slot rule and relief from taxes and charges.
"We are grateful to governments which have provided relief to aviation,” Albakri.
“However, the situation is not getting better, governments need to continue applying relief measures—financial and regulatory. A regional priority is securing support in the form of wage subsidies and loans as well as an extension of the waiver for the 80-20 use-it-or-lose-it slot rule.
“This is needed to provide critical relief to airlines in planning schedules amid unpredictable demand patterns. Saudi Arabia has confirmed a waiver for its slot coordinated airports and we hope the UAE, Morocco and Tunisia will do so soon.
“Airlines need to focus on meeting demand and not meeting slot rules that were never meant to accommodate the sharp fluctuations of such a crisis.”