Demand for air travel has plunged more than 90 percent in Europe and the United States since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.
It warned that passenger traffic won’t rebound to pre-crisis levels until at least 2023, noting that recovery will be even slower if lockdowns and travel restrictions are extended.
“We are asking governments to have a phased approach to restart the industry and to fly again,” Alexandre de Juniac, the IATA’s director general and CEO, told CNBC, raising hopes that some flying will resume by summer.
According to him, the aim is to reopen and boost the domestic market by the end of the second quarter, and open the regional or continental markets — such as Europe, North America or Asia Pacific — by the third quarter, and intercontinental in the fall.
“So, for summer we hope that you will see flights within Europe coming back, with I hope interesting prices and very safe processes of control,” de Juniac said.
He, however, added that won’t be possible if governments introduce mandatory 14-day quarantine periods for travelers upon arrival. “We are advocating with governments not to implement quarantine measures that will retain people for two weeks that will arrive anywhere. We think that it is useless provided we have implemented the health and sanitary controls that we are discussing with governments.”
The IATA chief executive also said that quarantine periods are simply not necessary as long as airlines and airports uphold stringent sanitation and monitoring practices.
“Is it possible to have an aircraft full and without risk of contamination? Our answer is yes,” de Juniac said, “provided we implement control and sanitary processes for passengers just before the flight — by asking for temperature control, by the obligation to wear a mask, by cleaning the aircraft properly and disinfecting properly, by limiting the distribution of food to pre-packaged food, by limiting cabin luggage to one luggage to avoid the disembarking and embarking process being too overcrowded.”
Many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, China, Spain and potentially the UK are demanding international travelers to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, with varying degrees of enforcement. Hong Kong issued state-monitored tracking bracelets that arrivals must wear to ensure they do not leave their area of quarantine.
Global airlines that have suffered unprecedented losses due to worldwide coronavirus groundings are desperate to resume flights. United Airlines aims to schedule Europe and China routes in June, while European low-cost carrier Ryanair plans to have 40 percent of its flights running by July 1. Dubai’s flagship Emirates Airline will recommence nine outbound routes starting May 21, and budget carrier Wizz Air will restart routes from London’s Luton airport starting June 16. Lufthansa is planning service expansion in June.