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‘Devastating and unrelenting’ COVID-19 crisis will cost airlines $157 billion

Check-in counters remain empty at the Terminal 2 of El Prat airport in Barcelona on November 19, 2020 as authorities prepare to transfer all activity to Terminal 1 with travel staying limited amid the coronavirus pandemic. - The global economy faces a hard road back from the Covid-19 downturn, the IMF announced. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP) (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — More huge losses are looming for the airline industry as carriers brace for the Covid-19 crisis to extend well into 2021.

The International Air Transport Association forecast Tuesday that the sector will lose $157 billion this year and next due to the pandemic. That’s much worse than previous estimates.

“This crisis is devastating and unrelenting,” IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement.

De Juniac said that Covid-19 made 2020 the worst financial year on record “bar none.” The industry group expects net losses to total$118.5 billion, worse than the$84.3 billion forecast in June.

The promise of safe and effective vaccines has fed some optimism that travel can pick up next year. But vaccinating millions of people across borders will take time.

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IATA now thinks the airline industry will lose $38.7 billion in 2021, deeper than its previous $15.8 billion forecast. It expects the industry to start generating cash again in the fourth quarter of next year thanks to aggressive cost cutting and higher demand.

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