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Author: Tan KW   |   Latest post: Sat, 23 Oct 2021, 12:40 PM

 

Asia’s airlines ramp up flights as travel curbs ease

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SYDNEY: Asia-Pacific airlines have lost billions of dollars this year, with jets grounded in Covid-19 transportation freezes. Now, as some of the world’s strictest pandemic-related travel rules begin to ease, they’re ramping up flights and ticket offers.

Asian travel agencies and carriers told Reuters they’re seeing a surge in bookings and travel enquiries as countries like Malaysia and Vietnam allow domestic flights to resume from this week after months of strict lockdowns.

India is lifting a domestic capacity cap, while Singapore, Thailand and Fiji are opening without quarantine to vaccinated international travellers from select countries.

While airline industry group IATA does not expect a significant improvement in Asia-Pacific international travel until “later in 2022 - predicting cumulative losses of US$11.2bil this year, narrowing to US$2.4bil next year - carriers from AirAsia Group to VietJet Aviation, Singapore Airlines, Fiji Airways and Qantas are already increasing capacity.

“The most important thing is practically all governments in the Asia-Pacific region with maybe one or two exceptions are abandoning their Covid-zero strategies and moving to a sort of Covid-normal framework,” said Association of Asia Pacific Airlines director-general Subhas Menon. “Vaccination rates are also beginning to ramp up.”

While curbs are easing, a full return to normal operations is a long way off. IATA estimates global aviation industry losses from the pandemic will be a towering US$200bil for 2020-2022, and losses in Asia alone were close to US$50bil in 2020.

International travel in the Asia-Pacific region was at around 4% of 2019 levels in August.

And though the relaxation of restrictions will open the way for some tourism, initially it will mean a comparative trickle: Thailand expects only around 100,000 foreign visitors this year, down from nearly 40 million in 2019.

Still, there’s pent-up demand from those who have longed to be able to take a break overseas. Dickson Ng, a 24-year-old consultant based in Singapore, said he plans to travel to Europe in January.

“We don’t know if these VTLs (vaccinated travel lanes) could be rescinded, right now there’s opportunity and there’s Covid fatigue, so I think getting out of the country will be a good thing,” he said.

Meanwhile Fiji Airways has had thousands of bookings since the country on Sunday announced it would open borders to vaccinated travellers from some destinations on Dec 1, the vast majority from Australians, an airline spokesperson said.

 - Reuters

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