The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has noted that the far-reaching economic impact of COVID-19 could cost the aviation industry as much as $434 million (around N159.278 billion) together with massive job cuts in the region of 22,000 in the nearest future.
In patronage terms, the sector stands the chance of recording a shortfall of 2.2 million in passenger volumes, up from the 853,000 projected earlier in the light of the current development, it said on Thursday.
International travel traffic has come under increasing strain in the past few days with government’s embargo on flights to 13 coronavirus high-risk countries notably Italy, the UK, the US and Italy.
West Africa-based carrier, Arik Air, had Wednesday announced suspension of flights from Nigeria to Ghana, Liberia and Senegal as its own intervention to contain spread.
IATA, which monitors trends in global air travels with coverage of over 290 airlines, observed that passenger flights had been cancelled in thousands in Africa between January ending and now.
It foresaw that the disruption could escalate tremendously in the days ahead on the imposition of stricter measures on air travel across the world.
“International bookings in Africa are down roughly 20 per cent in March and April, domestic bookings have fallen by about 15 per cent in March and 25 per cent in April, according to the latest data.
“African airlines had lost $4.4bn in revenue as of March 11, 2020. Ticket refunds have increased by 75 per cent in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 (01 February – 11 March),” an IATA release says.
The statement remarks that recession-held South Africa could shed six million passengers, 102,000 jobs and have its aviation revenue eroded by $1.2 billion.
Kenya is anticipated to lose $320 million and 36,800 jobs, Rwanda $52 million and 3,000 jobs, and Ethiopia $202 million and 98,400.
Alexander de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive, enjoined governments to provide support that could succour the industry in these hard times.
“The scale of the current industry crisis is much worse and far more widespread than 9/11, SARS or the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.
“Airlines are fighting for survival. Many routes have been suspended in Africa and Middle East and airlines have seen demand fall by as much as 60 per cent on remaining ones,” he said.
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