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Airlines operating in the Asia-Pacific (Apac) region, including India, are expected to report combined losses of $31.7 billion in 2020 because of the adverse impact of the pandemic on travel demand, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Wednesday. Losses are expected to narrow to $7.5 billion in 2021, the industry lobby group said.

IATA expects airlines to improve their performance in the second half of 2021, but passenger traffic may rebound to 2019-levels only by 2024.

Total capacity utilized by airlines in the Apac region is expected to fall 55.1%, with total passenger traffic plunging 62% this year, said IATA in a presentation at a media briefing following its 76th annual general meeting.

“There’s a real risk of airline failures, especially medium and small airlines, so IATA has asked governments to intervene," said Conrad Clifford, regional vice-president, Asia Pacific Region, IATA.

Though Clifford didn’t give the net loss figures for Indian airlines, he said the Apac region was one of the worst affected by the pandemic. He also asked the Indian government—which has not provided any financial assistance to airlines yet—to review its stand.

“We (have) urged the Indian government to assist airlines, airports and other aviation stakeholders," he said.

Indian airlines have been hit by the covid-led muted demand even after the easing of travel restrictions. Airlines incurred huge losses in the past few quarters.

Budget airline SpiceJet Ltd posted a consolidated loss of 105.61 crore for the September quarter--its third-consecutive quarterly loss. In comparison, InterGlobe Aviation Ltd which runs India’s largest domestic airline, IndiGo, reported a record consolidated net loss of 1,195 crore in the September quarter.

IndiGo and SpiceJet are the only active listed airlines on the Indian stock exchanges. The other listed airline, Jet Airways (India) Ltd has kept its operations grounded since April 2019 following an acute cash crunch. State-run Air India Ltd is also expected to incur huge losses in 2020.

IATA had on Tuesday said airlines globally will lose a record more than $118.5 billion in 2020 due to the muted travel appetite and various curbs during the pandemic. Losses for 2021 are expected at $38.7 billion.

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