American airlines
It will take a few more weeks for air travel to resume in some form. But carriers worldwide will need generous help from governments to survive. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: It could take as long as three years for global air travel demand to return to levels seen just before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, according to the Emirates airline and Etihad chiefs.

The UAE-US business council had hosted a video conference with Emirates President Tim Clark and Etihad Chief Executive Tony Douglas. Clark and Douglas both said they believed 85 per cent of the world's airlines are at risk of insolvency, and that without state support could go bankrupt before year-end, according to the business council.

The airlines also warned it could take until 2023 for passenger demand to recover to pre-crisis levels. The pandemic has brought international air travel to a virtual halt, and many airlines have warned they may not survive the crisis.

Emirates and Etihad, both of the United Arab Emirates, have grounded scheduled passenger flights since last month, but have operated some outbound-only services for foreigners leaving the country.

Dubai's government, which owns Emirates, has told its airline it would financially support it to see it through the crisis.