Airlines could lose up to $157b in revenue due to virus: Iata
Impact of fallout comparable with last global financial crisis, worse than during Sars
The global air transport industry is expected to suffer revenue losses between US$63 billion and US$113 billion (S$157 billion) due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The figure will be determined by how the coronavirus spreads, said the International Air Transport Association (Iata) yesterday.
The association represents 290 airlines, or approximately 82 per cent of the global air traffic.
Mr Brian Pearce, Iata's acting senior vice-president for member and external relations and chief economist, said the last time the industry dealt with such a revenue blow was during the global financial crisis in 2009.
Even the impact from the severe acute respiratory syndrome experience in 2003 was not as bad as Covid-19, he added.
Speaking to the press at the close of a two-day aviation resilience and health workshop at the Mandarin Orchard hotel, attended by more than 100 people, Mr Pearce said: "The Chinese travel market is so much greater now, perhaps about four times the size it was in 2003.
"We are going to see a much bigger hit and more damage to the airlines."
The $63 billion figure referred to a scenario where there is limited spread within countries that have more than 100 cases as of March 2. The $113 billion figure is where there is an extensive spread of the disease.
Mr Pearce said there is a projected 13 per cent loss of annual revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) for airlines in the Asia-Pacific this year. This is in comparison with nine per cent during the 2003 Sars outbreak.
In financial terms, this would project to about a $28 billion loss of passenger revenues for airlines in the Asia-Pacific, he said.
Jobs could be at stake, Mr Pearce added.
Addressing concerns over whether it was still safe to travel by air, Dr Isaac Bogoch, a general infectious diseases specialist, said the risk of transmission via airplanes is small.
He added people could mitigate the risk further by practising good hand hygiene.
"It's as simple as washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser," said Dr Bogoch.
Iata called on governments to collaborate with them before imposing travel restrictions.
Mr Anthony Concil, Iata's vice-president, corporate communications, said: "We see these restrictions coming in very quickly without explanation. We need to be able to give them positive advice.
"We want to return to some sort of normalcy in the way we conduct business, or our lives, and the way to get there is by collaboration and cooperation."
But Iata also praised the Singapore Government for helping the aviation industry.
"We've seen great leadership and relief packages from the Singapore Government to support the industry during this difficult time. We'd like to see more of that in other countries," Mr Concil said.