London - European airlines
demanded urgent tax relief to avoid multiple bankruptcies as
coronavirus disruption continued its spread across the global
industry on Tuesday.
As the region's transport ministers prepared to discuss
financial support, the Airlines for Europe group called for
widespread tax deferrals "to ensure that as many airlines as
possible survive" the crisis.
The call came as the aviation industry's main global body,
IATA, said that the total support needed from governments
worldwide could reach $150 billion to $200 billion.
The sector's appeals are becoming more strident as airlines
continue to ground planes, drop routes and cut jobs in response
to unprecedented travel restrictions to limit the spread of the
virus, including the closure of EU borders.
Job cuts are adding to pressure on governments. IAG-owned
British Airways informed unions on Tuesday that it
planned to make an unspecified number of pilots redundant.
"We are extremely disappointed that a company like BA, with
a strong balance sheet and cash reserves, has rushed into
redundancy consultation," said Brian Sutton, the head of pilots'
"This is the biggest crisis the aviation industry has faced
in decades. Without more government support we fear the impact
will be far greater."
Most major airlines have made drastic, unprecedented
schedule cuts - often bringing operations to a near halt - as
restrictions bite and demand dries up.
Brussels Airlines, a Lufthansa subsidiary, on
Tuesday said that it will suspend all flights for four weeks.
Singapore Airlines also cut more capacity, Emirates
suspended dozens of destinations and Canada's WestJet halted
The Philippines' Cebu Air cancelled all flights
from March 19 and Jetstar Asia announced a three-week shutdown
after parent Qantas cut its own capacity by 90%.
U.S. airlines have asked Washington for $50 billion in
federal grants and loans, plus tens of billions in tax relief.
In a letter to political leaders, United Airlines
management and unions pleaded for urgent financial support to
"allow United to continue paying our employees as we weather
this crisis, protecting tens of thousands of people".
Boeing has also held talks with White House officials
on possible assistance. European arch-rival Airbus said
on Tuesday that it was halting production in France and Spain as
coronavirus lockdowns affect workers and suppliers.
The global airline industry will need "something like $150
billion to $200 billion" from governments including loan
guarantees, IATA head Alexandre de Juniac told reporters on
The coronavirus is "now covering markets that represent 94%
of global passenger revenue", the Geneva-based organisation's
chief economist, Brian Pearce, said in the same presentation.
Three quarters of airlines now have liquidity covering less
than three months of unavoidable fixed costs, Pearce said.
"The majority are in a very fragile place," he added.
EU transport ministers will meet by video-conference on
Wednesday, an official said. Governments including those of
France, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain have expressed
readiness to extend financial support to airlines.
Lufthansa is expected to receive a government cash
injection, one German banker told Reuters.
The flag carrier is also making plans for an emergency cargo
airlift on a scale not seen since the 1948-49 blockade of