DUBAI: As coronavirus grounds airlines, plunging the industry into unprecedented crisis, Middle East carriers that have been in the red for years must urgently tap assistance from governments facing their own revenue slump.
Authorities across the region have taken draconian measures to curb the disease, closing airports and halting passenger flights, and bringing major hubs like Dubai and Abu Dhabi to a standstill.
The Arab Air Carriers' Organization (AACO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have appealed for urgent financial aid from governments, warning that inaction will imperil the industry's future.
"The airline industry faces its gravest crisis, For airlines, it's apocalypse now," IATA chief Alexandre de Juniac said this week.
International airlines have in the past bitterly criticised Middle East carriers for receiving official support from governments flush with oil revenue, claiming that it undermines free competition.
But the pandemic that has forced regional fleets out of the skies has also sent energy markets into a tailspin as demand dries up, triggering a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia as they rush to grab market share.
With the oil price plummeting, London-based Capital Economics tipped the region's economy to contract by 1.7 percent this year, the worst in almost four decades limiting governments' ability to continue funding national airlines....