The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and a major global group of transport workers on Tuesday jointly called for urgent government intervention to prevent an employment catastrophe in aviation, where they say an estimated 4.8 million jobs are at risk.

“Estimates from the Air Transport Action Group suggest some 4.8 million aviation workers’ jobs are at risk as a result of air travel demand falling more than 75%,” IATA and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said.

“The impact of COVID-19 related border restrictions and quarantine measures has effectively closed down the aviation industry, grounding planes and leaving infrastructure and aircraft manufacturing capacity idle,” they added.

The airline industries group and the workers’ group called on governments to include calls to provide continued financial support for the aviation industry.

They also called for safely reopening borders without quarantine by implementing a globally harmonized system of pre-departure COVID-19 testing, they said.

Chris Goater, an IATA spokesman, told Anadolu Agency that the association is looking at the recent developments on the chances of a vaccine to counter the virus coming onto the market that scientists worldwide and the World Health Organization have hailed.

“To deliver the vaccines effectively, we will have to have an airline industry, so I don’t think we should get ahead of ourselves,” he said.

‘Unprecedented employment catastrophe’

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said: “Aviation faces an unprecedented employment catastrophe. Airlines have cut costs to the bone but have just 8.5 months of cash left under current conditions.”

Tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost, and unless governments provide more financial relief, these are likely to increase to the hundreds of thousands, de Juniac said.

He said that aviation plays an essential role in connecting nations and carrying vital cargo, and it is in governments’ best interests to offer further financial aid to keep the industry viable.

More importantly, he said, governments need to work together to safely reopen borders.

That would mean implementing a global scheme for testing passengers for COVID-19.

“With that in place, quarantines can be removed, and passengers can have the confidence to fly again,” said de Juniac.

Stephen Cotton, ITF’s general secretary, said, “The global aviation industry is in a state of prolonged crisis.

“By the end of the year, almost 80% of wage replacement schemes will run out; without urgent intervention from governments, we will witness the biggest jobs crisis the industry has ever seen,” he warned.

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