This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
A piece of what IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac called some good news for the European airline industry came Tuesday with a financial package from Eurocontrol member states allowing operators to defer €1.1 billion of air traffic control fees due to the continent’s air traffic management industry over “the coming months.”
The number of flights operating daily in European airspace has declined 90 percent due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and IATA sees little improvement until the continent lifts its lockdown. Europe, in fact, has seen the most severe decline of any part in the world, where regions average about a 70 percent reduction in traffic, according to IATA chief economist Brian Pearce.
In a statement issued soon after Eurocontrol announced the measures, the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) commended the member states for the relief. Estimates for 2020 called for European air traffic management fees for en route services to total €8.2 billion, based on forecast traffic and the projected cost of services from air navigation service providers (ANSPs). The bill for February totaled €518 million; the next payment would have come due on April 13, reported ERA. Eurocontrol has agreed to defer that bill until November.
“This swift action taken by the Eurocontrol member states will provide airlines with more flexibility as they financially plan for the future,” said ERA director general Montserrat Barriga. “Aviation will be instrumental in Europe’s economic recovery, and financial relief measures are needed urgently to ensure our airlines can continue to operate, providing connectivity, once we move towards recovery. Today’s announcement by Eurocontrol will certainly aid our airlines in this recovery process.”
Speaking during a Tuesday teleconference with media, IATA’s de Juniac complimented the world’s governments for their “very supportive and open attitudes” toward financial relief measures in general. However, he also called for them to implement the aid packages immediately.
“This is the biggest crisis we have ever had in front of us,” said de Juniac. “Now we desperately need these [rescue] packages to be implemented and the money to flow to our balance sheets because we are clearly running out of cash. Whatever the measure is, we need it now because after three weeks of shutdown for many of our members and two months of cash in hand at the beginning of the year…we urgently need cash injection by any means.”