Business groups begin Covid-19 impact relief

By Eudore R. Chand

Festival City mall

Al Futtaim Group Dh 100m fund for mall tenants

UAE 20 March 2020: Leading Dubai-based conglomerate Al Futtaim Group yesterday announced a fund of Dh100 million to help its mall tenants in Dubai Festival City and Festival Plaza, and ease their financial burden in the prevailing environment caused by the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.

The move reflects the patriotic spirit of the private sector in Dubai, and the key role played by national firms in supporting the UAE economy.

The fund, which will cover up to three months’ rent relief for eligible tenants across the Al Futtaim Group’s malls, seeks to aid the recovery of their businesses in the UAE, said Wam.

The announcement of the fund follows the creation of a taskforce established to examine how Al Futtaim Group can develop effective measures to help its tenants at a time when visitor footfall in malls has declined following the directives issued by local authorities to the public to avoid crowded areas. The fund offers financial support to retailers impacted by the situation and seeks to help them reduce the impact of the slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Omar Abdulla Al Futtaim, Vice-Chairman of Al Futtaim Group, said that strong collaboration between various stakeholders is critical to navigate the challenges that have arisen in the current situation.

NCTH exempts retail shops from rent for three months

The National Corporation for Tourism & Hotels (NCTH), announced that tenants of retail shops and restaurants at its hotels will be exempted from rents for three months, as part of its support for the country’s precautionary and preventive efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, Covid-19, its chief announced on Thursday.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Chairman, said:” At NCTH, we support every effort aimed at serving the nation, its people and residents and protecting health and safety of the community.” ”All our hotel rooms will be put at the disposal of the call for national duty,” he added.

Khalaf Al Habtoor donates 50 ambulances, quarantine unit

Emirati businessman Khalaf Al Habtoor announced that he will be donating 50 state-of-the-art ambulances and a medically-equipped building to be used for quarantine purposes. As part of the humanitarian gesture, Al Habtoor also announced he will establish an integrated virology laboratory for medical research to support global efforts in the fight against the Coronavirus.

The announcement is in line with the UAE’s efforts to safeguard the health and safety of its citizens, residents and visitors and supports the World Health Organization’s guidelines.

Al Habtoor said the people of the UAE have shown that they are committed to provide every support they can during this critical period. “The people of the country have responded positively to the directives of the country’s leadership, which greatly supports the UAE’s efforts to continue being a global model for high safety and security standards. As the world faces major health challenges, it is critical that everyone joins forces to overcome this crisis period,” he said.

In response to the announcement, Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority Humaid Al Qutami, said that many business leaders in the UAE have showed their commitment to supporting the community and contributed to the efforts to face prevailing challenges.

Several flights moved from Abu Dhabi T1 to T3

Abu Dhabi Airports announced the temporary move of several flights from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).

In a statement on Thursday, the company said, “On 18th March 2020, Abu Dhabi Airports consolidated operations into two terminals. Select flights operating to and from Terminal 1 are now operating out of Terminal 3.”

“The temporary terminal move reflects Abu Dhabi Airports’ commitment to delivering efficient operations and a seamless passenger experience,” it added.

The airports company is currently working in close partnership with the respective airlines to ensure a smooth transition from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3.

The statement, carried by Wam, noted that the recent terminal operational updates “do not reflect the current situation regarding the outbreak of coronavirus, Covid-19”.

“It is fully in line with Abu Dhabi Airports’ dedication to delivering smoother connections for passengers and efficient operations for airline partners,” it continued.

Abu Dhabi Airports did not provide details of the selected flights, but recommended that passengers check the correct terminal with their respective airline before travelling to the airport.

Etihad Airways eases travel plans with Etihad Credit

Etihad Airways has introduced Etihad Credit to give guests the freedom to delay their travel plans by permitting a free cancellation and is offering the original value of their booking to be used as credit towards their next trip.

Robin Kamark, Chief Commercial Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said, “In these unprecedented times, we understand that some of our guests are either unable to, or choose not to travel and it is our responsibility to help them as much as possible.

“Now, more than ever, there is a global effort to care for one another and halt the spread of Covid-19 and under these challenging circumstances. Etihad Credit is our way of helping to relieve some of the unnecessary burden many of our customers are facing.”

Etihad Credit is available for all guests who have booked to travel before 30th June 2020. Guests have until 30th September 2020 to rebook their trip, for travel until 31st December 2020 – any ticket, any fare type, any Etihad destination. Any fare difference from the original ticket price will be charged.

Additionally, Etihad Guest Members will be gifted monthly bonus Tier Miles from 31st March for three months to help them maintain their Tier Status. Eligible Members will receive further information directly.

Guests wishing to take advantage of Etihad Credit should visit the Travel Updates page on the Etihad Airways website and complete the form online.

For guests with essential travel requirements, Etihad is working closely with the World Health Organisation, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention, and IATA, as well as other organisations, to ensure a healthy flying experience.

Urgent emergency support requested for airlines: IATA

GENEVA: The International Air Transport Association (IATA), is appealing to governments in Africa and the Middle East, as part of a worldwide campaign, to provide emergency support to airlines as they fight for survival due to the evaporation of air travel demand as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Stopping the spread of Covid-19 is the top priority of governments. But they must be aware that the public health emergency has now become a catastrophe for economies and for aviation,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director-General and CEO.

He went on to note that the scale of the current industry crisis is “much worse and far more widespread” than the September 11 attacks, SARS, or the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

“Airlines are fighting for survival,” stressed de Juniac. “Many routes have been suspended in Africa and Middle East and airlines have seen demand fall by as much as 60 percent on remaining ones. Millions of jobs are at stake. Airlines need urgent government action if they are to emerge from this in a fit state to help the world recover, once Covid-19 is beaten.”

Extensive cost cutting measures are being implemented by the region’s carriers to mitigate the financial impact of Covid-19.

However, due to flight bans as well as international and regional travel restrictions, airlines’ revenues are plummeting, outstripping the scope of even the most drastic cost containment measures, an IATA statement noted.

It added, “With average cash reserves of approximately two months in the region, airlines are facing a liquidity and existential crisis. Support measures are urgently needed.”

On a global basis, IATA estimates that emergency aid of up to US$200 billion is required.

Number of Measures

IATA is proposing a number of options for governments to consider. They include:

Direct Support: Financial support to passenger and cargo carriers to compensate for reduced revenues and liquidity attributable to travel restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19

Borrowings: Loans, loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market by governments or central banks. The corporate bond market is a vital source of finance, but the eligibility of corporate bonds for central bank support needs to be extended and guaranteed by governments to provide access for a wider range of companies.

Tax relief: Rebates on payroll taxes paid to date in 2020 and/or an extension of payment terms for the rest of 2020, along with a temporary waiver of ticket taxes and other Government-imposed levies.

Muhammad Al Bakri, IATA Regional Vice President Africa, Middle East, said that several governments – UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria and Mauritius to name a few – have already committed national aid for Covid-19.

“Our ask,” he added, “is that airlines, which are essential to all modern economies, are given urgent consideration.”

Al Bakri explained that this will help keep airlines alive and ensure airline staff – and people working in allied sectors – have jobs to come back to at the end of the crisis. “It will enable global supply chains to continue functioning and provide the connectivity that tourism and trade will depend on if they are to contribute to rapid post-pandemic economic growth.”

In the Middle East air transport’s economic contribution is estimated at US$130 billion supporting 2.4 million jobs and contributing 4.4 percent to GDP.

Covid-19 Effects in Middle East

Since the end of January 16,000 passenger flights have been cancelled in the Middle East. This is expected to increase exponentially with the additional measures in different countries

So far, international bookings in the Middle East are down 40% year-over-year in March and April, 30% year-over-year in May and June. Domestic bookings are down roughly 20% in March and April, 40% in May and June, according to the latest data available

Middle East airlines had lost US$7.2 billion revenue as at 11 March 2020

Ticket refunds have increased by 75% in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 (01 February – 11 March)
Country specific analysis

Bahrain: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in 1.1 million loss in passenger volumes and US$204 million loss in base revenues in Bahrain. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk about 5,100 jobs in the country.

Kuwait: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in 2.9 million loss in passenger volumes and US$547 million loss in base revenues in Kuwait. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk over 19,800 jobs in the country.

Oman: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in 2 million loss in passenger volumes and US$328 million loss in base revenues in Oman. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk about 36,700 jobs in the country.

Qatar: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in 2.3 million loss in passenger volumes and US$746 million loss in base revenues in Qatar. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk about 33,200 jobs in the country.

Saudi Arabia: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in 15.7 million loss in passenger volumes and US$3.1 billion loss in base revenues in Saudi Arabia. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk over 140,300 jobs in the country.

United Arab Emirates: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in 13.6 million loss in passenger volumes and US$2.8 billion loss in base revenues in the United Arab Emirates. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk over 163,000 jobs in the country.

Lebanon: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from the Covid-19 could result in 1.9 million loss in passenger volumes and US$365 million loss in base revenues in Lebanon. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk about 51,700 jobs in the country.

Jordan: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in approximately 645,000 loss in passenger volumes and US$118.5 million loss in base revenues in Jordan. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk at least 6,100 jobs in the country. If the situation escalates further, 1.6M passengers and US$ 302.8M revenues can be lost.

Egypt: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in 6.3 million loss in passenger volumes and US$1 billion loss in base revenues in Egypt. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk about 138,000 jobs in the country:

Morocco: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in 4.9 million loss in passenger volumes and US$728 million loss in base revenues in Morocco. The disruptions to air travel could also put at risk over 225,000 jobs in the country.

Tunisia: Consistent with the ‘Extensive Spread’ Scenario published on 5 March, the disruptions from Covid-19 could result in 2.2 million loss in passenger volumes and US$297 million loss in base revenues in Tunisia.

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