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Air traffic falls drastically as airlines ground aircraft

Waheed Abbas/Dubai
Filed on March 25, 2020

(AFP)

Air traffic in the Middle East and Asia has fallen drastically as regional carriers have nearly stopped operating due to slump in demand and restrictions imposed by the governments.

Analysts said the airlines are unable to plan their future course due to uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 impact. Governments have announced lockdowns for a few weeks initially and decisions about relaxation will only be taken depending on the situation surrounding Covid-19. An image from the flight Radar showed that just a few than 700 flights could be seen in the space and most will be cargo aircraft as most of the passenger aircraft have been grounded.

"With passenger flights in India and the UAE now suspended, the airspace looks very different than it did last month. 700 fewer flights in the image from today," it said.

Flightradar24 provides real-time information about thousands of aircraft around the world. Flightradar24 tracks 180,000+ flights, from 1,200+ airlines, flying to or from 4,000+ airports around the world in real time.

The International Air Transport Assocition (IATA) on Tuesday said Middle East carriers will witness $19 billion decline in revenues in 2020 as compared to last year. This amounts to 39 per cent plunge in revenues per kilometres. Overall, owing to the severity of travel restrictions and the expected global recession, IATA now estimated that industry passenger revenues could plummet $252 billion or 44 per cent below 2019's figure.

This is in a scenario in which severe travel restrictions last for up to three months, followed by a gradual economic recovery later this year. John Grant, an analyst at aviation and travel data provider OAG, said the impact of Covid-19 on the Middle East carriers will be as significant as it is for every other airline in the World.

"No airline can plan or prepare for a scenario where 95 per cent of their capacity is grounded for an indefinite amount of time. It is unchartered territory that as you will appreciate in the Middle East has a huge impact on the wider economic activity in the region. The situation is changing all the time for the airlines who are both revising their networks as they seek to preserve cash and fulfilling some of their social obligations to repatriate locals back home," said Grant.

Grant said Emirates' has moved from some 788,000 seats a week to almost zero highlights how big an issue has become for everyone. On Tuesday, Etihad Airways announced that the UAE's National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), brought forward their directive to suspend all inbound, outbound, and transit passenger flights in the UAE. This decision has been made to limit the spread of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus and to protect citizens, residents, and international travellers.

- waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com


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