The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced a moderate rebound in air travel in September 2021 compared to August’s performance. This was driven by recovery in domestic markets, in particular China, where some travel curbs were lifted following the Covid-19 outbreaks in August. International demand slipped slightly compared to the previous month.
Total demand for air travel in September 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) was down 53.4% compared to September 2019. This was up from August, when demand was 56.0% below August 2019 levels.
The Australian Government’s latest announcement on reopening is a is a step forward, but more can still be done,’ according to Philip Goh, International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s ) regional vice president for Asia Pacific.
‘The announcement of the November timeline and the removal of the international arrival caps are positive steps forward.
‘The reduction of quarantine period and introduction of home quarantine for vaccinated Australians are also steps in the right direction. We welcome the use of rapid antigen tests for international travel.’
Moves by Spain, France and other European states to carefully open borders are a step in the right direction, but restoring global connectivity requires far more than regional or individual state initiatives, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The G20 has endorsed a data-driven approach to managing the risks of Covid-19 while re-opening borders.
‘Connectivity needs countries at both ends of the journey to be open. Many of the world’s largest air travel markets, such Australia, China, the UK, Japan, and Canada remain essentially closed with no clear plans to guide a reopening,’ says Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.
‘Data should help these and other countries to introduce targeted policies that keep populations safe while moving towards a normality in a world with Covid-19 for some time to come,’
France, Spain's steps welcomed
IATA has welcomed the relaxation of Covid-19 border measures for vaccinated passengers, and the broader use of affordable antigen testing adopted by Spain and France last week.
However, the association says this is tempered by ongoing disappointment at the failure to implement harmonised measures across Europe and deep frustration at the lack of coordination among governments worldwide for a data-driven risk-managed approach to re-establishing the freedom to travel.
Spain has opened its borders to most vaccinated travelers from around the world and allowed EU travelers to enter the country with a negative antigen test. Passengers from low-risk countries (including the UK) can enter without any restrictions.
From 9 June France opened to vaccinated travellers from all but those countries assessed as high risk. Vaccinated travelers from medium-risk countries will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 antigen or PCR test, and unvaccinated people must still self-isolate for seven days.
‘It’s encouraging to see more European countries taking steps to reopen borders,’ says Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general. ‘They recognise the opportunity created by vaccination and are making travel more affordable with the use of antigen testing. But this approach is not universal across the continent. Many European states have yet to significantly relax borders at all. This fragmentation should be replaced with a unified approach that is consistent with the recommendations of the EU to which they belong. People, businesses and economies would all benefit from greater alignment across Europe in relaxing measures and restoring the freedom to travel.’
Global air passenger numbers are expected to recover to 88% of pre-Covid-19 levels in 2022, according to a long term forecast released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Tourism Economics. This follows what is likely to be a 52% recovery in 2021.
The organisations predict the damage of the Covid-19 crisis will be felt for years to come but say people have retained their desire and need to travel.
The report notes that consumers have accumulated savings in the lockdowns, in some cases exceeding 10% of GDP. Vaccination rates in developed countries (with the notable exception of Japan) should exceed 50% of the population by the third quarter of 2021.
Air New Zealand will trial the digital Travel Pass app developed by International Air Transport Association (IATA) on its Auckland-Sydney route in April. The carrier's chief digital officer Jennifer Sepull says the goal is to enable customers to seamlessly manage their digital travel documentation throughout their travel experience.