Asia misses world restoration of air travel, as IATA condemns bans

Hwaseong, South Korea – Asia-Pacific international locations have almost totally missed out on the worldwide restoration of air travel, with flights nonetheless down greater than 90 % in contrast with pre-pandemic ranges, new figures present.

The area is the one a part of the world to see virtually no enchancment in air travel in the course of the previous yr, with visitors up simply 0.three share level in October in comparison with September.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) launched the figures on Thursday because it warned {that a} raft of travel bans to halt the unfold of the Omicron coronavirus variant threatened to derail the delicate restoration of worldwide aviation.

Travel within the Asia-Pacific was down 93.1 % in October 2021 in comparison with October 2019 — almost unchanged from the 92.eight % decline recorded for September 2021 in comparison with two years beforehand, based on the commerce organisation.

By comparability, Middle Eastern airways noticed demand rise by almost 7 share factors, with visitors in October down 60.three % in comparison with earlier than the pandemic. European carriers noticed demand rise by nearly 6 share factors, with visitors down solely 50.6 % in comparison with October 2019.

Latin American airways reported a rise of greater than 6 share factors, with October visitors down 55.1 %.

North American carriers skilled a 57 % drop in visitors in comparison with 2019, enhancing from a 61.four % decline in September.

African airways’ visitors was down 60.2 % in October, in comparison with 62.1 % over the identical interval in 2019.

Asia’s decimated travel trade faces extra ache following the emergence of the Omicron variant [File: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

IATA Director General Willie Walsh stated governments had been placing the restoration in danger by implementing “ill-advised” travel bans regardless of criticism of such measures by the World Health Organisation.

“October’s traffic performance reinforces that people will travel when they are permitted to,” Walsh stated. “Unfortunately, government responses to the emergence of the Omicron variant are putting at risk the global connectivity it has taken so long to rebuild.”

“The logic of the WHO advice was evident within days of Omicron’s identification in South Africa, with its presence already confirmed in all continents. The ill-advised travel bans are as ineffective as closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.”

Despite vaccinations approaching most charges in lots of components of the area, the Asia-Pacific was largely closed to non-essential travel even earlier than the emergence of the brand new variant.

The WHO has designated Omicron a “variant of concern”. While some scientists fear the variant might be extra transmissible or extra simply evade vaccines, well being officers have careworn that little is understood in regards to the pressure.

While dozens of nations have in latest days banned travel from southern Africa, the place the variant was first found, international locations together with Japan, South Korea and Australia have taken extra sweeping measures to broadly limit travel.

In 2019, about 291 million vacationers visited the Asia-Pacific, contributing about $875bn to the financial system, based on information from the World Economic Forum.

Last month, the International Labour Organization estimated that simply 5 Asian international locations — the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei and Mongolia — misplaced 1.6 million jobs final yr as a result of collapse of worldwide travel.

Gary Bowerman, director of Kuala Lumpur-based travel and tourism analysis agency Check-in Asia, informed Al Jazeera travel within the area confronted a “huge cliff face to reclimb”.

“We were starting to see a degree of momentum building in November, particularly in South East Asia as some countries began gradually, or were preparing to, reopen their borders,” Bowerman stated. “Omicron has stalled this, and this week we have seen a rapid retreat from travel by governments across the region as they erect new barriers for entry and exit.”