LONDON – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released a report that showed the damages caused to airlines and economies due to the restrictions being imposed by each country.

The report was centralized around the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on air passenger numbers, employment and economies across Europe, with worrying numbers showing a long term recovery plan being needed for many airlines.

The European market has seen increases in the number of flights in recent months, with many carriers pushing forward to try and get 50% of their summer network back up before the end of September.

However, across Europe, flights are still more than 50% below the same period compared to summer 2019. There is an overall larger impact of an expected 60% drop in passenger numbers in 2020.

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Uncertainty Looms

The main problems that are facing airlines is the constant uncertainty from countries on the restrictions and rules they will bring in and remove to stem a second wave of the pandemic.

As a result, any fixed plans for recovery are all but made impossible. This has seen many airlines make swift changes to their companies, closing bases, delaying orders, and reducing staff numbers, with thousands of Pilots and Cabin crew being made redundant.

Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe said, “It is desperately worrying to see a further decline in prospects for air travel this year, and the knock-on impact for employment and prosperity.”

“It shows once again the terrible effect that is being felt by families across Europe as border restrictions and quarantine continue. It is vital that governments and industry work together to create a harmonized plan for reopening borders.”

Analysis of the largest European markets shows a decline across all metrics since the previous IATA estimates in mid-June. (These are impact estimates for the full-year 2020.)

Safety measures on board also include Cabin disinfection procedures.

IATA Calls For Unity

With such an impact on the aviation industry, the effects will spread to additional industry sectors such as travel and tourism. IATA is calling for European countries to make a more unified effort to help control the damage, with a co-operative format that would allow for less disruption with plans to open up borders.

The Air transport industry has always worked closely with regulators such as the Internation Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to help place measures and protocols to ensure the safety of travelers and Crew.

Many airlines and airports are introducing the requirement of wearing masks to travel, with airlines also adopting the no middle seat policy to ensure social distancing during the flight.

These measures along with many others have already proven to be highly successful. With over 20 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, there are less than 50 known cases of transmission on board.

The low case numbers on board are not only due to the safety measures used by airlines but also with modern commercial jets being fitted with HEPA air filters. The latter ensures any COVID-19 spread into the air is filtered before returning to the cabin and are the same filters used in hospitals around the globe.

Schvartzman said, “With recovery to 2019 levels now slipping to 2024, financial support, in forms which do not further load crippling debts onto the industry, will be necessary if an even sharper contraction in airline capacity and jobs is to be avoided. And regulatory assistance is vital.”

“It is absolutely crucial that the European Commission issue an unambiguous statement on their intention to provide a full Winter-season slot use waiver immediately. It is baffling that the Commission continues to sit on its hands over the Summer, while each day of delay becomes more critical for the future viability of a robust and competitive aviation industry,”

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Bailouts Already Approved but More Needed

Despite many governments around Europe offering bailout packages to airlines, the rate at with the European and global economy is suffering cannot be controlled at this time. Airlines need more money if they are too keep their current fleet and staff sizes.

Bailouts like this have seen many carriers across Europe such as easyJet (U2) and the Lufthansa Group (LH) obtain large government relief funds. Other airlines such as UK’s Virgin Atlantic have turned to private investment options to stem the leak of cash.

The report from IATA shows that since June, six million jobs supported by aviation, including tourism, were at risk. This number has now increased to seven million with the reintroduction of restrictions on travel to countries.

Alas, there is the possibility that the number will continue to rises without a clear joint structure across Europe put in place.

There can be no doubt that following the release of this report, the numbers show a grim and bleak outlook for the future of aviation, with a long and arduous road ahead for recovery.