Airports Council International (ACI) World has laid out a road map for the recovery of the airport sector and wider aviation ecosystem from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Aviation is one of the most strategic sectors of national and global economies. It is essential for trade, business, tourism, and economic growth but ACI recently revealed that the airport industry is anticipating global passenger numbers to decrease by 5.6 billion this year, along with an unprecedented US$104.5 billion reduction in revenue.
The recovery of aviation will fuel the global economic recovery and the Policy Brief: Path to the airport industry recovery—Restoring a sustainable economic equilibrium puts forward policy and assistance proposals that governments can adopt to both accelerate the global industry restart and ensure a sustained long-term recovery. The policy brief urges governments to alleviate travel restrictions as soon as recommended by national and international health authorities and to conduct a proper cost-benefit analysis to decide whether to continue levying passenger-based taxes or if higher national income could be generated from the additional economic activity arising from aviation.
Governments are also urged to support the financial viability of the industry through direct financial support that benefits the entire aviation ecosystem — airports, airlines and their commercial partners — to protect essential operations and jobs. Additionally, and in accordance with World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Health Regulations, ACI believes costs related to public health measures aimed at mitigating the spread of communicable diseases should be borne by national governments.
“As the airport sector, as an integral part of the global aviation ecosystem, has been among the industries most affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic and is confronted by a crisis of liquidity and existential uncertainty, financial support is urgently needed to support industry restart and protect essential operations” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “An efficient aviation industry is a key driver of economic and social development and the recovery of air transport, therefore, is indispensable to the recovery of the global economy. Airports generate 60 percent of direct employment in the aviation sector.
“Airports are major supporters of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 8, 9 and 10 concerning work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, and reduced inequalities,” de Oliveira said. “Airports and aviation support other goals, such as reducing poverty, facilitating access to quality education, promoting gender equality, building sustainable cities and communities, and partnering for the goals with other industries. Unprecedented times require unprecedented measures, and timely and appropriate government action that will facilitate the recovery of the entire industry with coordinated and targeted assistance and policy support is urgently needed.”
Other measures put forward in the policy brief to foster recovery include:
- To ensure liquidity in the aviation ecosystem, governments are advised to provide short-term loans or one-time cash injections to minimise default on debt and credit losses.
- Airport rents and concession fees applicable to airport operators should be waived in the form of a one-time measure for a defined period of time, without the requirement for airports to pay back the waived amounts later.
- Regulators should pursue temporary relaxation of limits and allowances for selected duty-free products, so as to stimulate sales and, consequently, help airports generate revenues from their concessionaires.
- Governments are urged to reconsider their models of economic regulation and move towards fostering pricing strategies and commercial agreements which best serve the needs of the travelling public.
In supporting recovery, ACI has also created initiatives like the Check & Fly app and the global Airport Health Accreditation programme which helps to demonstrate that health and safety is the industry’s number one priority. ACI World has also called on governments to follow a robust and consistent protocol for testing which should be implemented only when necessary and as an alternative to broad-brush requirements for quarantine.