Urgent risk management needed to revive global aviation sector – Walsh

The Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for a risk managed reconnecting of the world as passenger aviation continues to die on its feet.

Willie Walsh warned unless global governments had to reopen international travel as airlines continued to struggle with significantly reduced passenger numbers.

“With each passing day the hope of seeing a significant revival in international traffic during the Northern Hemisphere summer grows fainter,” he warned. “Many governments are not following the data or the science to restore the basic freedom of movement. Despite growing numbers of vaccinated people and improved testing capacity we are very close to losing another peak summer season on the important trans-Atlantic market. And the UK’s flip-flop to reinstate quarantine for vaccinated arrivals from France is the kind of policy development that destroys consumer confidence when it is most needed.”

“A risk-managed re-connecting of the world is what we need,” he added. “Vaccinated travellers should have their freedom of movement returned. An efficient testing regime can sufficiently manage risks for those unable to be vaccinated.

“This is the underlying message in the latest WHO travel guidance. Some governments are moving in this direction. The UK, Singapore and Canada have indicated timelines to open their borders without quarantine for vaccinated travellers. The European Commission has recommended that its member states adopt travel protocols that are closely aligned with the WHO—including testing for unvaccinated travellers.

“Similar moves to re-open borders in line with the WHO guidance by US—leaders in vaccinating their populations—would give critical impetus to demonstrating that we can live and travel while managing the risks of COVID-19.”

IATA announced passenger demand performance for June 2021 showed a very slight improvement in both international and domestic air travel markets. However its warned demand remains significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels owing to international travel restrictions.

Total demand for air travel in June 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 60.1% compared to June 2019. The figure was a small improvement over the 62.9% decline recorded in May 2021 versus May 2019.

It added international passenger demand in June was 80.9% below June 2019, an improvement from the 85.4% decline recorded in May 2021 versus two years ago. All regions with the exception of Asia-Pacific contributed to the slightly higher demand.

Total domestic demand was down 22.4% versus pre-crisis levels (June 2019), a slight gain over the 23.7% decline recorded in May 2021 versus the 2019 period.“We are seeing movement in the right direction, particularly in some key domestic markets. But the situation for international travel is nowhere near where we need to be. June should be the start of peak season, but airlines were carrying just 20% of 2019 levels. That’s not a recovery, it’s a continuing crisis caused by government inaction,” said Walsh.

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