Airlines in Middle East set for $24bn sales hit

Governments in the Middle East are taking too long to assist their airlines, says IATA

The group representing airlines in the Middle East is worried that governments in the region are taking too long to assist carriers, which now face an estimated $24 billion hit to their revenues this year.

Muhammad Al Bakri, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, told reporters that the group is “waiting to hear anything from Middle East and African governments”.

The group is lobbying airlines around the world to introduce direct financial aid initiatives to support airlines through the coronavirus crisis, which has halted international travel.

Q2 2020 is expected to be the most dangerous period for airlines as they burn through their final cash reserves.

Al Bakri said it is “worrisome” that governments are supporting small businesses and large corporations with economic stimulus packages but are not offering aviation-specific aid.

“We know that the governments are busy fighting Covid-19… We know that governments are in direct contact with the airlines and they’re discussing what’s the best way really to provide help, but what we worry most about is that it’s taking too long,” he said.

There are a number of exceptions in the Middle East and Africa, with certain governments taking steps to protect their airlines.

The UAE has pledged financial support for state-owned carrier Emirates and Dubai International has waived a number of payments.

Al Bakri said: “As the industry starts recovering and getting healthy, we don’t want them to get hammered with charges and fees that will undermine their ability to recover and move forward.”

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