Airlines see revival signs as Covid restrictions ease


A Kenya Airways plane at the JKIA in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Airlines are staring at good times ahead as more countries are now relaxing the Covid-19 containment measures that nearly crippled the aviation sector in the last two years.

A number of countries including the major economies such as the US and UK are relaxing their restriction measures, coming as a major boost to the aviation industry that is now recording an increase in the number of bookings.

The sector through their lobby-International Air Travel Association (IATA) has been calling on governments to ease the restriction measure to allow for recovery of the industry.

IATA reported a sharp 11-percentage point increase for international tickets sold in recent weeks in comparison with the number of tickets sold in 2019.

In the period around February 8 (seven-day moving average), IATA says the number of tickets sold stood at 49 percent of the same period in 2019.

The agency says in the period around 25 January (seven-day moving average) the number of tickets sold stood at 38 percent of the same period in 2019.

“The 11-percentage point improvement between the January and February periods is the fastest such increase for any two-week period since the crisis began,” said IATA.

After almost two years of restrictions, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that it was time to live with the coronavirus, announcing an end to England’s remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

In December last year, the UK moved to scrap the red list, which was reintroduced a while back as a precaution after the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Kenya had stayed in the red list of countries for months, meaning that any person travelling from Kenya would not be admitted to the UK.

All UK arrivals from red list countries were required to pay for and self-isolate in a pre-booked, government-approved hotel for 10 days.

Closer home, Uganda last week announced an end to mandatory Covid-19 measures at the ports of entry, which it had imposed last year.

The announcement on Wednesday follows a Monday Cabinet decision that noted that few new cases were being recorded at the airport and that the threat of new coronavirus variants and community transmissions has reduced.

"Mandatory Covid-19 testing of all incoming travellers at Entebbe International Airport upon arrival has been stopped with effect from 16 February 2022," said Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director of health services at the Ministry of Health, in a statement.

The government of Uganda had imposed the restrictions in September last year following the detection of more variants of Omicron imported from neighbouring countries in travellers who arrived via the airport.

Travellers had to part with $30 for the tests even if they possessed negative PCR results from their departure points.

The measures had brought business to a standstill at Malaba and Busia along the Kenya border with Uganda as truck drivers protested the mandatory tests and costs.

IATA, however, is calling for removing all travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those fully vaccinated with a World Health Organisation approved vaccine. This, the agency said, would enable quarantine-free movement for non-vaccinated travellers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result and removal of travel bans.

The agency wants governments to accelerate the easing of travel restrictions in recognition that travellers pose no greater risk for Covid-19 spread than already exists in the general population.

“Travel restrictions have had a severe impact on people and on economies. They have not, however, stopped the spread of the virus. And it is time for their removal as we learn to live and travel in a world that will have risks of Covid-19 for the foreseeable future, ” IATA said

“This means putting a stop to the singling out of the travelling population for special measures. In nearly all cases, travellers don’t bring any more risk to a market than is already there. Many governments have recognised this already and removed restrictions. Many more need to follow,” said the agency.

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