AviationAAPA wants to see more city pairs follow the Singapore-Hong Kong example.

Risky business: How countries can restore air travel

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Flights between Hong Kong and Singapore will go daily next month, but there hasn't been other firm multilateral arrangements for restarting air travel.
Flights between Hong Kong and Singapore will go daily next month, but there hasn't been other firm multilateral arrangements for restarting air travel. Photo Credit: Discover Hong Kong Facebook page

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) has praised the Singapore-Hong Kong no-quarantine travel bubble as a shining example of how city pairs can reignite air travel in the region.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said AAPA director general Subhas Menon. “It’s an example of assessing and successfully applying risk management.”

Flights between Singapore and Hong Kong will become daily from 7 December with not more than 200 passengers allowed on each flight.

Menon expects travel within Asia to first resume with city pairs while long-haul travel to Europe and the US will take longer to re-establish.

“Countries that have largely contained the virus will hopefully now turn their attention to opening up their borders and revitalising travel and tourism,” he said.

AAPA’s 64th Assembly of Presidents, held virtually this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, heard that there are no firm multilateral arrangements for restarting air travel.

Menon said governments are still “inwardly focused” and were reluctant to agree on a global risk assessment framework, “which means equal risk and response for safe travel between countries”.

“We need a common platform where countries can speak to each other and share information,” he added.

Among all regions, the fall in air traffic is steepest in Asia Pacific where airlines currently carry less than two million international passengers per month, compared to 39 million a month in 2019.

Losses for airlines will exceed US$84 billion worldwide this year. Asia Pacific airlines will account for more than a third of the losses or US$29 billion.

The AAPA summit took place against a background of intense pressure on airlines in Asia to survive the global pandemic but Menon expects “rationalisation not consolidation’ of airlines, despite some carriers having just one to three months of cash in hand and adopting different survival strategies.

“All airlines are in the same boat and it’s really a story of conserving cash and getting government and shareholder support,” he said.

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