Indian carriers like many other airlines across the globe are in a "survival mode" due to the coronavirus pandemic and there is a need for sustainable revival of the domestic aviation industry, International Air Transport Association (IATA) DG and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said on Friday.
Speaking at a webinar hosted by the aviation consultancy Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), de Juniac also forecast the air travel demand in India to drop by 47 percent and revenue by $11 billion this year over 2019 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Much has happened in the last four months. We are experiencing an unprecedented crisis in the history of our industry and recovery from this crisis will be long and slow. India's aviation industry has not been spared by the COVID-19 crisis," he said.
IATA expects passenger demand for 2020 to fall by 47 percent, with revenue falling by $11 billion compared to last year, the chief of the global airlines grouping said, adding, "about 3-million jobs, including those that depend on aviation, such as travel and tourism, are also at risk."
"The Indian carriers, like many airlines around the world, are in survival mode," de Juniac said.
He said it is particularly disappointing that the package of economic relief unveiled earlier this month contained nothing for airlines in the form of direct financial relief compared to $123 billion in government financial aid that has been announced around the world, including $26 billion in the Asia Pacific region.
"I urge the Indian government to support the airlines with a financial aid package that provides a bridge over this challenging period. Specifically, help the airlines with measures that raise equity financing rather than to increase debt. This needs to be done urgently before it is too late, he said.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this month while as part of the fourth tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package to revive the economy announced measures such as easing of restrictions on the utilisation of Indian air space, privatisation of six more airports, among others.
de Juniac also said that aviation should be started with measures that are globally agreed and mutually recognized by states as this will give confidence to travellers.
"The restart of domestic aviation in India this week is a step forward. But more can be done, including the need to harmonise measures across Indian states," he said.
India opened its domestic air travel routes for flying from May 25 after a two months halt. The international operations by airlines, however, remain suspended.
IATA is a member of ICAO's COVID-19 Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART), which is developing the global standards needed for the safe restart of aviation, de Juniac said.
"We are also engaging a number of governments directly, including India. We have proposed a roadmap for restarting aviation that outlines a temporary layered approach to biosafety until a vaccine, immunity passports or nearly instant COVID-19 testing is available at scale," he said.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.