A passenger aircraft is taking off at Reagan Washington National Airport outside Washington, D.C. (Photo by Diaa Bekheet)
A passenger aircraft is taking off at Reagan Washington National Airport outside Washington, D.C. (Photo by Diaa Bekheet)

The global airline industry’s survival is being threatened with nearly $160 billion in projected losses this year and next because of the coronavirus crisis, the International Air Transport Association said Tuesday.

The IATA downgraded its outlook for the industry in response to a second outbreak of the coronavirus and airline closures afflicting large markets.

“The COVID-19 crisis threatens the survival of the transport industry,” said the IATA, which also warned that 2020 will be the industry’s “worst” year ever. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.

In June the IATA had forecast $100 billion in losses over the next two years, but it has revised its forecast to show $118.5 billion in losses in 2020 and $38.7 billion for 2021.

The bleak outlook highlights the challenges the sector still faces despite recent favorable breakthroughs in the development of COVID-19 vaccines. IATA chief economist Brian Pearce describes COVID-19 as the biggest shock to aviation since World War II. 

The IATA’s forecasts assume some countries will reopen their borders by the middle of next year, as they are helped by some combination of coronavirus testing and vaccine deployment.

The IATA repeated its call for governments to replace travel restriction requirements with widespread testing programs.