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African airlines could lose $6 billion in passenger revenue in 2020, the International Air Transport Association has said.

The association made this known as flight restrictions due to the novel coronavirus hit the sector on the continent and other parts of the world.

“We have not seen the desired help announced for African airlines so far,” said Muhammad Al Bakri, IATA’s regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East.

“The longer we wait, the more risk we would be exposed to,” Reuters quoted him as saying in a teleconference with reporters.

In a statement Thursday, IATA said it is critical for African governments to provide relief for airlines in the region as they are on the brink of collapse.

Similarly, the industry body adjusted its projections about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on airlines in the African region.

“Airlines could lose $6 billion of passenger revenue compared to 2019. That is $2 billion more than was expected at the beginning of the month,” it said.

“Job losses in aviation and related industries could grow to 3.1 million. That is half of the region’s 6.2 million aviation-related employment. The previous estimate was 2 million.”

IATA said governments would have to use a combination of loans, direct financial support, and tax relief to minimise the impact of the pandemic on jobs and the broader African economy.

The body also appealed to development banks and other sources of finance to support Africa’s air transport sectors which are now on the verge of collapse.

“Airlines in Africa are struggling for survival. Air Mauritius has entered voluntary administration, South African Airways and SA Express are in business rescue, other distressed carriers have placed staff on unpaid leave or signalled their intention to cut jobs,” said Mr Al Bakri.

“More airlines will follow if urgent financial relief is not provided. The economic damage of a crippled industry extends far beyond the sector itself.

“Aviation in Africa supports 6.2 million jobs and $56 billion in GDP. Sector failure is not an option, more governments need to step up.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, reports have claimed that Nigeria would lose about 4.7 million passengers resulting in a $0.99 billion revenue loss. The development is also projected to endanger about 125,400 jobs, with ripple effects on the nation’s economy.

Earlier on Thursday, PREMIUM TIMES reported how Nigeria’s largest commercial airline, Arik Air, informed staff it would cut the salaries of its employees by 80 per cent.

In an internal memo obtained by PREMIUM TIMES the airline’s Chief Executive Officer, Roy Ilegbodu, informed employees that the management of the company has also decided that at least 90 per cent of its workers will proceed on indefinite leave without pay from May 1. 2020.

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