Thursday, August 05, 2021

Editorial: Air travel on hold

AMONG the hardest hit in this Covid-19 pandemic is air travel, a multi-billion industry that supports other industries. Since its inception, air travel has played a crucial role in linking cities and developing economies.

Data from the United Nations’ (UN) International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) showed that air travel moves around 4.3 billion passengers per year. Per day, some 12 million passengers are being flown around the world.

“The air transport industry supports a total of 65.5 million jobs globally. It provides 10.2 million direct jobs. Airlines, air navigation service providers, and airports directly employ around three and a half million people. The civil aerospace sector (the manufacture of aircraft, systems, and engines) employs 1.2 million people. A further 5.6 million people work in other on-airport positions. Another 55.3 million indirect, induced, and tourism-related jobs are supported by aviation,” the ICAO states in its report on the Economic Impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) on Civil Aviation.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, ICAO reported that international air transport “recorded an overall reduction of international passengers ranging from 44% to 80% in 2020 compared to 2019.”

In the Philippines, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that there is a 47 percent drop in passenger demand in 2020 compared to 2019. This could mean a US$4.48 billion revenue loss for the country’s air transport industry that could affect 548,300 jobs.

Meanwhile, in a Philippine Star report on April 30, Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said while there is still no vaccine to combat Covid-19, Filipinos will have to temporarily shelf their plans of leisure travel abroad.

“International travel might not happen this year. At this point in time, traveling (abroad) is but a dream,” Romulo-Puyat said during a virtual hearing of the House committee on tourism on Tuesday.

As air travel is put on hold by the highly infectious disease, this could potentially slow down the economy as the movement of people and goods is being hampered. While cargo operations continue, there is still somewhat a slowdown as industries are implementing measures to reduce the workforce in a bid to prevent the disease.

With uncertainties up ahead, the aviation industry is doing its best to adapt to the rapidly changing times brought by Covid-19. However, it also needs help from the different governments in getting back on its feet.

Conrad Clifford, IATA’s regional vice president for Asia-Pacific, is calling on governments in the region to provide direct financial support; loans, loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market; and tax relief to help airlines in the region. He identified India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and Thailand as priority countries that will need to help its air travel sector.

“Providing support for airlines has a broader economic implication. Jobs across many sectors will be impacted if airlines do not survive the Covid-19 crisis. Every airline job supports another 24 in the travel and tourism value chain,” Clifford said.


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