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Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus impact: Iata calls for extension of airport slot waivers

Issac John /Dubai Filed on June 18, 2020
coronavirus, covid-19, airlines, aviation, flying uae

(Reuters file)

It also has urged governments to avoid increases in charges and fees.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has called on governments across the globe to extend airport slot waivers amid the continued difficulty caused by the Covid-19 crisis, and warned that a return to normal flying would be a long way off from the current re-opening of borders.  

Iata Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said even though business activity is slowly picking up, the market still has a long way to go."Therefore, airlines still need support from governments to keep them going through the storm."

"People are returning to the skies but the horizon of uncertainty of the Covid-19 crisis is extending. Forward bookings are down, and people are hedging their travel bets by booking closer to the time of travel. Airlines in the northern hemisphere rely on a strong summer season and a predictable booking curve to get them through the lean months," de Juniac said.

He said as most border restrictions within Europe were lifted and people began to travel, two important points have to be addressed. "The first is to remind governments and stakeholders that the re-opening of borders is a long way off from a return to normal flying."

"The re-start is anything but a normal situation for airline planning or passenger demand," de Juniac said.

Forward bookings into the autumn period are down 82 per cent on normal levels. And fewer travellers are planning for an early return to the skies. "Our most recent survey indicated that only 40 per cent would fly within a few months of the pandemic subsiding. That is down from 61 per cent in early April," he said.

The Iata chief said a slot waiver into the winter season-the period from October 2020 until March 2021--- will give airlines the flexibility they need to focus on meeting passenger demand as it evolves, and free from the burden of trying to protect what their schedule might look like a year from now.

"The Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines are critical in normal times. They enable airlines to plan their investments and they give consumers certainty. But these are extraordinary times full of uncertainty. The current waiver has been very useful in giving airlines flexibility in the re-start. And that flexibility will be the key to surviving the winter season. That is why we are calling on regulators to extend the waiver on a worldwide basis," de Juniac said.

He said airlines would need continued help from governments to survive a hard winter. "Airlines will need much more flexibility to plan schedules around these changing consumer trends. Financial and operational flexibility equals survival."

Iata reiterated its call for other relief measures, including financial assistance in ways that do not increase industry debt levels which have risen sharply and extensions to wage subsidies and corporate taxation relief measures. It also has urged governments to avoid increases in charges and fees.


Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.

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