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Airlines hike estimate of virus revenue hit to $250 billion

FILE PHOTO: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) logo is seen at the International Tourism Trade Fair ITB in Berlin, Germany, March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) – Global airlines urged governments on Tuesday to speed up bailouts to rescue the air transport industry as they doubled their estimate of 2020 revenue losses from the coronavirus crisis to more than $250 billion.

“We clearly need massive action very quickly and urgently,” Alexandre de Juniac, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), told reporters on a conference call.

Airlines worldwide have grounded the majority of their fleets to preserve cash amid mounting travel restrictions designed to slow the spread of the epidemic.

The result has been huge pressure on the liquidity of airlines, up to half of which face possible bankruptcy in coming weeks if nothing is done to support the industry, IATA said.

“We have a liquidity crisis coming at full speed – no revenues and costs still on our (books), so we desperately need some cash,” de Juniac said.

The former Air France-KLM boss appealed for exemptions for cargo flights, saying vital economic activity risked being hampered by sweeping airspace closures.

IATA, which groups some 280 airlines including most of the world’s largest network carriers, said signs of a deep recession could delay a recovery in airline travel – in contrast with the fast rebound seen after previous epidemics like SARS in 2003.

“There are a very large number of airlines that are more or less breaking even and … facing losses. Those airlines are very fragile,” Chief Economist Brian Pearce said.

Reporting by Sarah Young, Laurence Frost; writing by Costas Pitas, Tim Hepher; Editing by Paul Sandle, Mark Potter

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