Instead of improving its recovery rate from the devastating global pandemic during the year-end holiday, the fortunes of the aviation industry actually worsened. This is because governments around the world further tightened restrictions in the face of a second wave and new virus variations that effectively aimed to shut down air travel.
“While we still see airlines turning cash positive within the year, the near-term picture is bleak. Instead of a boost from the year-end holiday period, we got even more restrictions. Governments tightened borders in a knee-jerk response to a virus mutation. Canada, UK, Germany, Japan and others added testing to their Covid-19 measures without removing quarantine requirements. In other words, they have chosen policy measures that will shut down travel,” said Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, Alexandre de Juniac.
Commenting on Tuesday during his first industry briefing for the year, De Juniac admitted to the slow pace of the industry’s recovery progress during the crisis but insisted all players are working tirelessly with governments to keep flying safe and reduce the risk importing the virus. This, he said, is being achieved with the implementation of specific recommendations to replace quarantine with Covid-19 testing.
Said De Juniac: “This approach tells us that these governments are not interested in managing a balanced approach to the risks of Covid-19. They appear to be aiming for a zero-Covid world. This is an impossible task that comes with severe consequences—the full extent of which it would be impossible to calculate”.
The IATA chief warned that with this approach the travel and tourism economy will not recover and that jobs will continue to disappear. He further cautioned that a more extensive lockdown will exert an increasing toll on people’s mental health, particularly those separated from loved ones.
“A more balanced public policy approach is needed—one that is based on testing as a replacement for quarantines so that we can begin addressing the severe side-effects of Covid-19 policies. Science tells us that travellers will not be a significant factor in community transmission if testing is used effectively. But most governments have tunnel-vision on quarantine and are not at all focused on finding ways to safely re-open borders—or alleviate the self-imposed economic and mental health hardships of the lockdowns,” De Juniac bemoaned.
Some good news for aviation during the holidays was the successful launch of the IATA Travel Pass app. The pilot phase was launched in partnership with Singapore Airlines and a global rollout of the app is anticipated during the first quarter of this year.
During a recent speech UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres emphasised the urgent need to re-start global air travel.
“Aviation is an important engine of our world and will play a critical role in lifting the world to recovery from Covid-19. Let us ensure it receives the support it needs to keep the world’s nations connected and united.”