AAPA insists that the changing and unpredictable requirements add to the confusion for both airlines and passengers, and, as such, is calling on APAC governments to ease ‘unduly onerous restrictions’ and collaboratively develop a consistent framework for restoring international air travel.
“Public attitudes towards air travel are evolving as confidence is rebuilt,” the AAPA said. “However, a major obstacle is the widespread imposition of blanket quarantine measures by governments on inbound passengers. This makes any attempt to travel internationally by air extremely daunting, with questionable benefits over the need for quarantines once adequate community testing and contact tracing measures are in place.”
European airline and airport associations – namely The Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airlines for Europe (A4E) – recently wrote an open letter addressed to prime ministers and health, transport and home affairs ministers across EU, Schengen zone and the UK insisting that the travel restrictions that had been imposed were ‘slowing down the recovery in air traffic and the restoration of air connectivity’.
Public attitudes towards air travel are evolving as confidence is rebuilt
The three European associations insist that the restrictions were ‘badly hurting the European economy – and threatening livelihoods’. The letter reads: “The European Aviation sector is urging EU/Schengen States and the UK to reconsider restrictions to travel that have been imposed between them – including quarantines. We fail to see any valid science-based and proportionate justification for such restrictions from a health policy perspective.”
And over in Ireland, budget airline Ryanair is fighting a similar battle. The airline has launched a High Court action suit against the Irish Government over recent travel restrictions that were put in place. Ryanair insists that the limits put in place (Ireland has discouraged its citizens from traveling outside the island of Ireland, except for essential purposes) are detrimental to the company’s business (especially at a time when the situation in Europe is improving) and that they are ‘unlawful’ and interfere with individual’s rights.
The airline’s application for leave for judicial review will be heard next month, the High Court directed on Friday.
Another critical area for co-operation is reaching a common understanding on the use of Covid-19 testing as a further risk mitigation measure in screening international passengers, based on mutual acceptance
While the commercial aviation industry made efforts to provide a united response to the dire situation created by the global lockdown (the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) launched the Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce back in June to help restart international air travel), the AAPA insists that the progress of this has been slow. And having suffered a €185-million loss over the three months leading up to the month of July due to having to reduce its air traffic by 99 per cent in line with the Covid-19 travel restrictions, it can hardly be any great surprise that Ryanair – as well as the Asia-Pacific and European airline associations – have decided to take matters into their own hands.
“Whilst there have been initiatives and discussions about opening up international air corridors, travel bubbles, green lanes or fast channels, such initiatives have so far failed to take off due to their impractical requirements and inherent unsalability to meet the reasonable expectations of the travelling public,” the AAPA said. It added that while measures to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, such as widespread testing, contact tracing, social distancing and wearing of masks, have made good progress, they needed to be consistent when applied to international travel.
“Quarantine measures should only be applied selectively for passengers originating from higher risk locations. Another critical area for co-operation is reaching a common understanding on the use of Covid-19 testing as a further risk mitigation measure in screening international passengers, based on mutual acceptance.”
AAPA Director General Subhas Menon added: “After more than six months, the lack of a framework encompassing harmonised or mutually recognised measures that are pragmatic, consistent and based on robust risk assessment, will not only irretrievably hurt the region’s airlines, but more importantly, negatively impact the region’s tourism and trade prospects, as well as millions of livelihoods.”