So far, airline companies in the Middle East, which serves as a connection hub for east-west travel, have incurred losses amounting to $100 million following the outbreak of the Coronavirus, International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced yesterday.
"Air ticket sales too, from, and within the Middle East are expected to be dropping over the next few weeks," IATA's regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Albakri, told reporters, adding that a "significant additional revenue is at risk to the Middle East carriers if the travel restrictions spread further to the rear of Asia Pacific,"
Albakri went on by estimating a $1.5 billion in losses for global carriers in 2020 due to Coronavirus spread.
"It's a demonstration of how hard the industry's been hit by flight cancellations and closing borders," he noted.
The aviation official called on the Middle East governments to "help airlines with their operating costs." "The region depends on air connectivity, and support from governments will really help the airlines to get through this difficult period," Albakri said.
Global airlines have warned of the toll on their business as passenger numbers fall due to the outbreak that first emerged in China in late December and has since spread to more than 50 countries. Airlines have stopped flights to Iran, where the virus is rapidly spreading, and Saudi Arabia has temporarily banned tourists from 25 countries that have recorded cases the virus.
Most Middle East airlines are state-owned. In the past major Gulf, carriers have come under scrutiny over allegations they unfairly benefited from state funds, a charge they deny. Middle Eastern carriers, most of which are unprofitable, have stopped most flights to China and cut or reduced flights on other Asian routes.
The outbreak has been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an international health emergency.