COVID-19: ACI World publishes road map for eventual airport industry recovery

Trade association also calls for more relief from governments to survive the pandemic

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(PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

The major trade association representing the world’s airports, Airports Council International (ACI) World, has published a “road map” for the airport industry’s recovery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the world, infecting more than 2 million people and killing more than 145,000.

A screenshot of the Johns Hopkins University virus tracking site taken on 17 April. Click on the image to go to the live site. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

The policy brief – COVID-19: Relief Measures to Ensure the Survival of the Airport Industry – outlines exceptional measures to provide policy-makers with a comprehensive toolkit of solutions to ensure that the airport industry can be sustained through the crisis and lay the foundation for recovery. The impact of COVID-19 on the airport sector has been profound. Passenger traffic is expected to decline by almost 40 percent and revenue is expected to contract by US$77 billion in 2020.

An empty departure hall of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand due to COVID-19. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

In order to alleviate this unprecedented impact, ACI World has issued the following six focused policy responses that should be implemented:

  1. Protection of airport charges and revenues: As airports will need to ensure the continuity of basic services, alleviating the collection of airport charges through suspension or blanket discounts is an ill-advised response;
  2. Tax relief: Urgent tax relief will provide much-needed financial oxygen to airports to ensure continuity of operations and safeguard airport jobs;
  3. Concession fee waiver: Airport rents and concession fees should be waived or postponed in the form of a one-time measure for a defined period;
  4. Temporary suspension of slot usage requirements: Airport slot usage requirements should be suspended, at global level, until 30 June 2020 with a reassessment of the situation based on data-driven evidence to follow;
  5. Continuity of air cargo operations: Airports should continue levying charges on air cargo operations to maintain essential airside and cargo facilities;
  6. Comprehensive financial relief: This should include wage subsidy schemes to allow continued operations and a rapid return to full operations. Grants and subsidies, secured financing, loans at preferential rates, and bank guarantees should be made available. Financial relief should be non-discriminatory and not benefit one actor at the expense of others in the aviation ecosystem.
Angela Gittens, director general of ACI World. (PHOTO: ACI World)

“Airports are important engines of economic growth, wealth creation and employment and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the industry and broader economy has halted the airport industry at global level,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “Passenger traffic has collapsed but many airports are open for some scheduled operations, humanitarian and repatriation flights, and cargo operations and these activities continue to induce costs for airports. The millions of jobs provided by airport operators must be preserved and essential operation must be sustained in the most effective way to allow for these crucial operations to continue and for the foundation to be laid for a rapid recovery. The relief measures that have been put forward will ensure that financial assistance does not benefit one part of the industry over another in the aviation ecosystem so that a balanced, global recovery can be created.”

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Asian Aviation
Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.

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