Aviation bodies worldwide urge governments to support airlines as revenues go into free fall
The International Air Transport Association said overnight it is asking governments, “at this time of extreme pressure on the industry” to heed the “broad economic consequences” of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read More »
It also sought a quick response from nations to the financial frailty of airlines and to ensure countries followed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
A day earlier, the director general of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines, Andrew Herdman, said more than 90 countries had introduced some form of travel restriction. However, only 45 nations had so far informed the WHO of these measures and provided the associated public health rationale as required under International Health Regulations (IHR)”.
Herdman added the association was “not aware of any reports of COVID-19 infections attributed to inflight transmission”.
“The proliferation of travel restrictions worldwide and insufficient adherence to the IHR are imposing enormous costs on society with little or no public health benefit,” he said on March 11.
“The AAPA appreciates the leadership of WHO on this issue and calls on governments to fundamentally reconsider the rationale for such travel restrictions and measures taking into account the disruption caused to people’s livelihoods and the negative repercussions to the wider economy," Herdman said.
The March 12 IATA statement was in response to a U.S. government ban on all non-U.S. citizens and individuals who are not permanent residents from entering the country if they had been in the Schengen Area – 26 countries - in the last 14 days. At this stage, the measure, which does not apply to UK citizens, will be in place for 30 days.
IATA said the value of the U.S. Schengen market was US$20.6 billion in 2019. The airline markets that will suffer the greatest hits from the U.S. ban are U.S-Germany ($4 billion), U.S.-France ($3.5 billion) and U.S.-Italy ($2.9 billion).
“Governments must impose the measures they consider necessary to contain the virus. And they must be fully prepared to provide support to buffer the economic dislocation that this will cause,” de Juniac said.
“Suspending travel on such a broad scale will create negative consequences across the economy.
"Airlines will need emergency measures to get through this crisis. Governments should be looking at all possible means to assist the industry through these extreme circumstances.”
The European Union (EU) has called for a fundamental rethink about the use of travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus outbreak, describing the measures as generally ineffective.
The U.S. ban, introduced without consultation with foreign counterparts, spooked already jittery stock markets around the world, caused chaos at scores of airports on both sides of the Atlantic and left airlines scrambling to manage changed schedules.
“The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action," EU Commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen, and European Council president, Charles Michel, said in a joint statement.
"The European Union disapproves of the fact that the US decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
Elsewhere, more countries imposed travel bans to prevent the spread of the virus. This week India announced it would suspend the bulk of visa categories for visitors to the country and would close its border with neighbouring Myanmar.
Foreigners with Indian origin, who were usually granted visa-free access, must apply for a visa to enter the country.
“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till April 15, 2020,” India’s Health Ministry said in a statement.
In the Gulf, Kuwait said has decided to halt all commercial passenger flights into and out of the country.
‘Travel measures that significantly interfere with international traffic may only be justified at the beginning of an outbreak, as they may allow countries to gain time, even if only for a few days, to rapidly implement effective preparedness measures.
Such restrictions must be based on a careful risk assessment, be proportionate to the public health risk, be short in duration and be considered regularly as the situation evolves’
|World Health Organisation revised guidance February 29, 2020