Airlines and their associations are demanding governments take immediate action to ease the crisis facing the sector amid the Covid-19 crisis, after the US banned travel from most of Europe.

Curbs on arrivals to the US from Schengen-area countries came into effect at midnight on March 13. The ban applies to 3,500 flights and up to 800,000 passengers a week.

Airline Association Iata said: “These are extraordinary times and governments are taking unprecedented measures.”

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Director general Alexandre de Juniac said: “Airlines are complying with these [government] requirements. Governments must also recognise airlines are under extreme financial and operational pressures.”

He said: “Governments must impose the measures they consider necessary to contain the virus. [But] they must be fully prepared to provide support to buffer the economic dislocation this will cause.”

Airlines for Europe (A4E), which represents Europe’s leading carriers, demanded confirmation the EU will waive its rules on airport-slot utilisation for the entire summer.

The EC has so far confirmed only a temporary waiver.

A4E also called for any new aviation taxes to be deferred and for confirmation that the Covid-19 pandemic will count as “extraordinary circumstances” and therefore outside the scope of EU rules on compensation for air passengers.

Thomas Reynaert, A4E managing director, said: “We are faced with a situation in which there are no formal rules to limit the financial liability of airlines in case of extraordinary circumstances.”

The European Cockpit Association which represents pilots also warned: “This crisis is going to be grim.”

President Jon Horne said: “It is neither a Gulf War not Sars, not 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis, but all of them together.”