Among all the sectors put in difficulty by the coronavirus crisis, the air is one of the most affected, recalled this Thursday the president of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac. Tuesday, the drop in turnover caused by the epidemic reached " 252 billion dollars " for the whole sector, he recalled, a drop of " 40% of annual turnover " Of the industry. It is a situation " without precedent, a crisis more severe than that of September 11, 2001 or that the financial crisis of 2008. The ground collapses under our feet ", he alerted. The IATA estimate is now twice as large as the $ 113 billion calculated three weeks ago.
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This collapse is mainly caused by the heavy dependence of the sector on the economic situation: “ the air sector is very fragile. Traffic in the air is generally equal to twice the economic growth, "said the former boss of Air France. It is therefore not surprising that the closure of the borders and the threats of economic recession have resulted in a drop in traffic " from 80 to 90% ".
To get out of this crisis, IATA is asking for support from the States, to help companies cover their fixed costs by obtaining " cash, cash ". This support can come in many forms, ranging from donations, such as in the United States, to " credit, equity or credit guarantees ." In total, the organization figures the aid required at " $ 200 billion ", a large sum but " in line with the various aids announced by the States, " said Alexandre de Juniac. In addition, if air transport is the first affected, it will also be the first to support the economic recovery: " when the recovery comes, if the transport is weakened, there will not be the necessary connectivity to restart business " , he justified.
Towards consolidation in the air sector?
For the time being, IATA forecasts an economic activity curve not in V - a sharp and brutal decline, followed by an equally rapid recovery - but rather in U, where the fall would be followed first by a stagnation. " We need extremely massive and rapid commitments, without which the economic fabric will be very damaged, " worried its president. The fall in the price of oil will only be a small consolation for the sector: despite the " significant aid of several billion dollars " represented by the falling prices, this reduction is far from compensating for the losses of several hundred billions of dollars.
The industrial landscape is also likely to emerge transformed from this period, said Alexandre de Juniac: " the big companies will have absorbed the smallest ", a consolidation phenomenon that will accompany bankruptcies and allow companies to strengthen financially. " If it lasts until mid-June, half of the airlines will be short of cash, " added the businessman. However, ticket prices are likely to remain low for a while, with “ downward pressure ” while activity picks up. " It will take time, " according to IATA.
The aviation sector as a whole has been calling for help for several weeks, given the sharp drop in aircraft fill rates. In the United States, Boeing, already heavily affected by the disasters of the 737 MAX, sought the support of Congress, when the French public authorities have already made " arrangements " to support Air France. " We are reflecting on the measures that need to be taken ," said Bruno Le Maire on Tuesday.