World airlines have again hinged the industry’s rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on governments’ financial and regulatory support.
The airlines, rising from the 76th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), unanimously approved a resolution re-confirming the airlines’ unwavering commitment to safely and sustainably re-connect the planet.
In return, they urged governments to ensure the industry’s viability with continued financial and regulatory support, aid the industry in reaching its 2050 goal of cutting emissions to half of 2005 levels, while exploring pathways to net-zero carbon emissions through economic stimulus investments in commercialising Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).
Also, to work with airlines to ensure safety standards and critical skills are maintained both during the crisis and in the subsequent re-start and scale-up of operations.
IATA’s Director-General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alexandre de Juniac, said COVID-19 had devastated the balance sheets of member airlines, added; “we need continuing government support to enable the aviation industry to restart and rebuild connectivity.
“Without the economic benefits that aviation delivers, the global economic recovery will be much weaker and slower,” de Juniac said.
The need for financial support is critical. Records showed that governments have already provided $173 billion to airlines, but many programmes are running out as the COVID-19 crisis continues far longer than was anticipated.
“The $173 billion in financial support has saved countless jobs and averted mass bankruptcies. This was an investment in recovery—not just for airlines but also for the economy as a whole. Every aviation job supports 29 others. A full global recovery from this crisis will be significantly compromised without the economic catalyst of aviation,” de Juniac said.
During the crisis, airlines have cut costs nearly in half but revenues have plummeted even faster. Airlines are expected to lose $118.5 billion in 2020 and a further $38.7 billion in 2021, turning cash positive only at the end of 2021.
More support will be needed to see the industry through. And it must come in forms that do not further increase debt, which had already ballooned from $430 billion in 2019 to $651 billion in 2020.
Airlines reconfirmed its commitment to reduce net CO2 emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050.
The groundbreaking Waypoint 20501 report by the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), which IATA and other aviation stakeholders who contributed, said the aviation industry is exploring pathways to collectively reach net zero emissions. This is the first time that the industry has collectively looked at a net-zero emissions future.
“Meeting our goal of cutting our net emissions to half 2005 levels will be a challenge, but we know it can be done. And we have growing confidence that the industry can find a pathway to net-zero emissions,” de Juniac said.
Aviation will need the support of governments to make the energy transition to SAF that is needed to meet its climate change target. Compared with fossil fuels, SAF can reduce life-cycle carbon emissions by up to 80 per cent.
The IATA membership also reiterated its commitment to safety. In the crisis, this is evidenced in the comprehensive Take-off guidance published by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) with the support of IATA and other industry stakeholders.
This lays the foundation for the harmonised implementation of a multi-layered approach to keeping travelers and crew safe. While 86 per cent of people currently travelling report that they feel safe with the new measures, there is still work to be done for universal implementation.
The resolution further called on governments to work with airlines to maintain safety standards and critical skill levels during the crisis and in a safe restart and scale-up of operations in the recovery.
“We must plan carefully with regulators on how to safely ramp-up operations in the eventual recovery.”
Reactivating thousands of grounded aircraft, managing the qualifications and readiness of millions of licensed personnel, and dealing with a major drain of experienced workers will be key to a safe restart. From the earliest stages of the crisis, we worked with ICAO and regulators on a framework to do this. And this work continues as the crisis drags on beyond expectations,” de Juniac said.