Passenger demand in the Middle East back to 1998 levels

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on April 1, 2021

IATA called for regional coordination and urged governments to remain vigilant about the airline industry’s financial situation.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Thursday called on governments in the Middle East to develop restart plans to safely re-link their citizens, businesses and economies to global markets when the Covid-19 situation permits.

IATA data showed January air passenger traffic in the region was down 82.3 per cent compared to January 2019. The ongoing crisis puts over 1.7 million jobs in the Middle East and $105 billion in GDP at risk.

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IATA called for regional coordination and urged governments to remain vigilant about the airline industry’s financial situation.

“Re-establishing air connectivity will energise the economic recovery from Covid-19. With millions of jobs at risk from the prolonged shutdown, not a day should be lost once the epidemiological situation enables a re-opening,” said Kamil Al Awadhi, IATA regional vice-president for Africa and the Middle East.

“This is a unique situation. But we have good practices to rely on. Safety is the top priority for anything associated with aviation. That is because governments have long-established global best practices for working together with industry and with each other. This same approach will help the restart. There are two ends to every route. Both must be prepared, or the restart cannot happen,” said Al Awadhi.

IATA highlighted two critical areas where governments need to work together— operational restart and travel credentials. “Airlines need to ready their crew, technical personnel and aircraft. After a year of lockdowns, this requires refresher training and checks,” he explained.

Testing and vaccinations will play a role in opening borders to travel as the pandemic comes under control. “Simple, efficient and harmonised standards for what credentials people will need to travel will boost consumer confidence and give strength to the recovery,” he said.

IATA Travel Pass will help to conveniently manage health credentials, while protecting against fraud. “With Qatar Airways already piloting IATA Travel Pass and Emirates, Etihad and Gulf Air signed-up for trials, the Gulf is at the forefront of preparations,” said Al Awadhi.

Middle East Aviation - 2020 in Numbers:

·A 72 per cent drop in passenger demand in the Middle East compared to 66 per cent globally. Passenger demand is back to 1998 levels.

· A 63 per cent drop in capacity in the Middle East compared to 57 per cent globally

· Air cargo was a bright spot for Middle East carriers, cargo volumes only dropped 10 per cent. However, this was not enough to offset the losses from the passenger side of the business.

· Middle East airlines lost $7.1bn

· Airlines in the Middle East lost – $68.47 for every passenger they flew in 2020 compared to a loss globally of $66.04

· Connectivity fell by 60 per cent at the low point of the crisis. Before the crisis there were 1060 unique international routes at the low point of the crisis there was 440. And the density of those connections has become much thinner.

· Job losses could grow to 1.7 million in the Middle East in aviation and related industries


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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