A Uganda Airlines Bombardier CRJ-900 taxi is pictured during its relaunching flight to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya August 27, 2019. REUTERS-Njeri Mwangi

Middle Eastern and African governments must act faster to protect their airlines, the International Air Transport Association said on Thursday, warning their losses from the coronavirus pandemic had risen to $23 billion.

Several states have stepped in to help their airlines that have seen demand decimated by the global outbreak, such as the United States, Singapore and Australia, though few in the Middle East and Africa have made their intentions clear.

“The whole industry is going through one of its darkest moments of history,” IATA Africa and Middle East Vice President Muhaammad Ali Albakri said in an online press briefing.

“This is why countries who realise the importance of this industry have stepped forward (and are) pumping billions to save those airlines. We’re hoping that countries in Africa and the Middle East follow suit.”

IATA, the industry’s largest lobby group, has already urged Middle Eastern and African governments to take action by providing airlines with funding, loans and tax relief.

Middle Eastern carriers have now lost $19 billion in revenue this year, up from $7.2 billion on March 11, and African airlines’ losses so far remain at $4 billion, IATA said.

Dubai on Tuesday promised to provide its state carrier Emirates with new funding, but gave no details, while Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker told Reuters on Sunday the state airline would eventually need government assistance.

“We haven’t seen the details that we are looking for to give the airlines the life support they need to bridge them through this crisis,” Albakri said.

“(Governments) really have to understand that … helping the airline industry to survive will eventually help these countries rebuild their economies.”

IATA also called on airports, suppliers and other industry partners to remove or defer some charges to airlines.

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