Asia-Pacific airlines urge easing of travel restrictions

    Asian carriers (Photo by REUTERS)

    Airlines in Asia-Pacific urged governments in the region to relax travel restrictions and quarantine requirements to help the aviation sector restart and recover from the severe impact of the new coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

    “Strong multilateral collaboration among governments to relax travel restrictions and quarantine requirements based on risk assessment and medical evidence, will be key to the restart and recovery of the aviation industry,” the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) said in a statement.

    AAPA said the health crisis has triggered unimaginable losses for airlines exceeding $84 billion worldwide this year.

    Asia- Pacific airlines will account for more than a third of the losses or $29 billion.

    Among all regions, the fall in traffic is steepest in Asia -Pacific, it added.

    The state of international air travel is particularly grim, with Asia-Pacific airlines currently carrying less than 2 million international passengers per month, compared to 39 million a month in 2019. Seat capacity on international routes has accordingly fallen by 89 percent compared to 2019.

    However, AAPA said domestic travel is recovering well, with traffic in September reaching 67 percent of what it was a year ago while domestic capacity is already at 80 percent, benefitting from the timely relaxation of internal travel restrictions in some countries.

    Looking ahead to 2021, AAPA said the realistic path to gradually reopening borders could start with pairs of cities where the risk level is similarly low and the risk response equally robust, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

    “Mutually recognized and harmonized measures, such as comprehensive pre-departure testing protocols, are actively being pursued as a way forward in reopening borders without onerous travel restrictions,” AAPA said.

    The Asia-Pacific aviation industry continues to partner with governments in efforts to harmonize cross border measures and rebuild confidence in air travel.

    At the same time the industry is sharpening its aviation and health safety response capability further, as well as its focus on established decarbonisation goals, to strengthen its resilience and adaptability for the future, AAPA said.

    “Countries that have largely contained the virus will hopefully now turn their attention to opening up their borders and revitalizing travel and tourism. The demand for cross border travel will return once the conditions are conducive, as has been seen with the rebound in domestic travel once restrictions were lifted,” said Subhas Menon, AAPA director general.

    “Resurgent travel and tourism would reinvigorate the global recovery effort. As one united aviation community, the industry has reaffirmed our shared mission to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with governments and other stakeholders, to contain the spread of COVID-19, revive air travel and secure its future contribution to positive social and economic development,” Menon added.

    In the Philippines, leading carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific posted wider net loss in the first nine months of the year due to travel restrictions in both domestic and international operations.