IATA says nations must avoid post-9/11 measures to aid industry recovery

The airline industry is calling for a global set of measures for when travel resumes to avoid the chaos that ensued after 9/11, when countries enacted a plethora of their own but separate requirements where the aviation industry was concerned.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Tuesday, April 7th, that they warned state governments against prescribing airlines with a bunch of different rules and red tape in a bid to guard against new travel flare ups of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are totally conscious of the need to be safe and secure, and there will be health and sanitary conditions imposed,” IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said. “But these conditions need to be coordinated so that we don’t come back to the post-Sept. 11 situation in which many new processes were imposed and we ended up with a mess of measures piled on top of measures.”

Airlines have been hit hard with the near-total shutdown of travel as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across continents, causing governments to close borders and order that a large majority of the global population be under some type of shelter in place order. At the start of the second quarter which was the beginning of April, 70% of global carrier capacity had been idled, (meaning grounded airplanes that are not being used due to the lack of demand; and there are some places where there is a higher proportion than the 70% of aircraft grounded, and in others less). This, according to IATA, is even as flights within the U.S. are still operating, and some Chinese domestic services have returned.

Cathay Pacific has cut services to twice-weekly to four destinations. Photo by Jack Prebble | AeroNewsX

Jet aircraft are parked on the ramps across airports in Europe, and on runways and airports in the United States, where more than 90% of international operations (for both the U.S. and Europe) have been suspended. This means that a large majority of their wide body, two and four engined aircraft, which are the more expensive planes to operate, are parked in storage mainly because airlines can’t fill them enough in order to justify their use.

Following the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., nations that were negatively impacted by the events initially took one-sided, and sometimes contradictory decisions on flight safety rules.

de Juniac on Tuesday said the “physical restart” of global flying after the pandemic begins to ease will be a challenge for carriers. He cited the need to renew licenses, safety audits and airworthiness certificates and suggested these should be reviewed by regulators and/or civil aviation authorities.

IATA plans to stage regional summits to facilitate talks between airlines, governments and other agencies, according to de Juniac.

IATA has also in recent weeks increasingly called for governments to quickly come to the assistance of air carriers, with de Juniac saying that it is also vital that rules be changed to allow customer refunds to be paid in vouchers. The truth is, one of the toughest things for the airlines right now is the vast amount of flight cancellations that they are going through, as well as the demand for refunds rather than a new flight voucher, which makes it all the more difficult for the already cash-stricken ones.

Some $35 billion of the industry’s $60 billion cash reserves would otherwise be due for return to passengers by the end of the first half, according to IATA.

The trade group has forecast that airlines worldwide could lose $252 billion in revenue this year, or 44% of last year’s total, based on a three-month lockdown of populations and an economic recession. It also says that nearly 25 million(!) jobs out of the entire 65 million supported by air transport worldwide are at risk.

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