Shipping & Logistics

Airlines revival gathers steam as more countries open skies

air

Passengers at the international arrivals at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on November 29, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

geraldandae

Summary

  • The latest survey by International Air Travel Association (IATA) indicates that 25 of the top 50 countries for air travel, representing around 38 per cent of 2019 markets, were now open to fully vaccinated travellers.
  • Kenya is among the countries that have eased travel restrictions on arriving passengers after two years of stringent rules to tame the spread of the virus.
  • Kenya announced recently that the arriving passengers will no longer be required to undertake mandatory PCR tests at the airport and abolished the need for quarantine.

The world is now largely open for travel with the countries relaxing Covid-19 restrictions as the virus moves into endemic stage as opposed to pandemic, coming as a major boost to airlines.

The latest survey by International Air Travel Association (IATA) indicates that 25 of the top 50 countries for air travel, representing around 38 per cent of 2019 markets, were now open to fully vaccinated travellers without any quarantine or testing requirements.

This is an increase from 18 markets that were in the same position in mid-February in an earlier survey done by the association.

“About 38 markets representing 65 percent of 2019 international demand are open to vaccinated travellers with no quarantine requirements—up from 28 markets (50 percent of 2019 international demand) in mid-February,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director-general.

Kenya is among the countries that have eased travel restrictions on arriving passengers after two years of stringent rules to tame the spread of the virus.

Kenya announced recently that the arriving passengers will no longer be required to undertake mandatory PCR tests at the airport and abolished the need for quarantine.

The Ministry of Health is also allowing unvaccinated travellers in the country but must have a PCR negative certificate taken 72 hours before departure.

In Europe, 18 out of the top 20 aviation markets currently have no quarantine requirements in place for vaccinated passengers, while in the Asia Pacific region, only six of 16 countries do not require quarantine for vaccinated travellers.

“The world is largely open for travel. As population immunity grows, more governments are managing Covid-19 through surveillance, as they do for other endemic viruses,” said the official.

Mr Walsh said the move is great news for a growing number of destinations that will receive a much-needed economic boost from the upcoming Easter and northern summer travel seasons.

Repeated surveys of passengers by IATA during the pandemic has shown that testing and especially quarantine are major barriers to travel.

Passengers had cut down on travels to many destinations as they were not willing to spend more money on testing and having to undergo mandatory quarantine once they arrive at the ports of entry.

IATA has over time been calling for the removing all travel barriers — including quarantine and testing — for those fully vaccinated with a World Health Organisation approved vaccine, enabling quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travellers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result and removal of travel bans.

IATA says travel in Asia remains heavily compromised by Covid-19 restrictions. While North American and European international traffic rebounded to -42 percent of their 2019 peaks last year

For instance, China has placed about 17 million residents under lockdown, as virus cases doubled nationwide to nearly 3,400.

The southern tech hub of Shenzhen — home to about 13 million people — directed all residents to stay at home as it struggles to eradicate an Omicron variant linked to the neighbouring virus-ravaged city of Hong Kong.

The lockdown and a suspension of public transport will last until March 20, a city government notice said, adding that it would launch three rounds of mass testing.

A nationwide surge in cases has seen authorities close schools in Shanghai, China’s biggest city, and lockdown northeastern cities, as almost 18 provinces battle clusters of the Omicron and Delta variants.

Last week, a top Chinese scientist said the country should aim to co-exist with Covid-19, like other nations where Omicron has spread wildly.