Job losses in aviation and related industries could climb to 1.7 million in the Middle East in 2020 as countries continue to shut down air traffic to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The trade body’s latest assessment is higher than an estimate given in August of 1.5 million job losses and is nearly half of the region’s total aviation-related employment.

“This latest research highlights the urgency of restarting aviation in the Middle East,” Muhammad Albakri, Iata’s regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, said. “Normally aviation contributes $213 billion to the region’s GDP. Closing borders has reduced this to $108bn.That loss has severe consequences, not least of which is the loss of 1.7 million jobs.”

In the aviation sector alone, about 323,000 job losses are expected, which is about 46 per cent of the region’s total, according to Iata. This encompasses those working for airlines, airport operators, other people working at airports, civil aerospace and air navigation jobs.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the global travel and tourism industries to a near-halt and has tipped the global economy into a recession, expected to be the deepest since the Great Depression, according to the International Monetary Fund. In June, the multilateral lender forecast global gross domestic product would shrink by 4.9 per cent this year.

Iata on Thursday said 11 countries in the Middle East have reopened their borders to regional and international air travel. However, in nine of these countries, passengers are still subject to a mandatory quarantine.

“This effectively stops people from travelling,” Iata, said, calling for the systematic testing of passengers before departure instead.

“This will enable governments to safely open borders without quarantine and better support recovery efforts.”

Updated: October 1, 2020 10:02 PM