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 global health crisis. More crucially, the group has asked authorities to continue to support airlines through the harsh winter ahead.
A helping hand
As the coronavirus outbreak escalated earlier this year, passenger demand plummeted. The conditions forced carriers to operate ghost flights so that they would not lose their airport slots. However, aviation authorities eventually suspended the “use it or lose it” rule, which undoubtedly played a part in the survival of many companies.
In a press release seen by Simple Flying, IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac shared that, 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. He said,
“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.
“But neither of these conditions are in place and airlines will 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.”
Below are four key areas that IATA urges governments to assist carriers with:
- Extending the waiver from the 80-20 use-it-or-lose-it rule in the Worldwide Airport Slot Guidelines. Ultimately, operators need to prioritize the needs of the customer today, without trying to defend their slots for next year’s demand.
- Continued financial assistance without furthering industry debt levels. Measures such as subsidizing domestic services or waiving airport and air traffic control charges could go a long way.
- Extensions to wage subsidies and corporate taxation relief measures. These programs are providing approximately $35 billion in relief to operators.
- Avoiding increases in charges and fees. Additionally, authorities should cover the costs of new hygiene measures imposed as a result of the pandemic.
The fight continues
Nonetheless, even though flight activity is increasing, the climate is still unpredictable. While several countries prepare for the prospect of a second wave of the virus, there are still several nations that are still in lockdown.
Most South American countries still have their borders closed for general passengers. Moreover, many governments across the continents still have strict entry rules. Therefore, it makes sense to extend the slot waivers as there is still a long way to go before it is “business as usual” for airlines.
Overall bookings are down 82 percent year-on-year compared to last June. Additionally, long-haul forward bookings for the first week in November 2020 are 59 percent below standard levels. It would be fairer to start implementing the traditional rules when there is a balance within the industry, and there are more breakthroughs in the fight against the virus,