AAPA pushes governments to open borders

The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Transport Bubble could be an example for other countries to follow.

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) has again reiterated its position that governments should relax strict border and quarantine restrictions and use mutually recognized testing to restart the air transport sector. 

Following a closed door and remote general assembly, AAPA director general Subhas Menon told reporters the situation for the region’s airlines is “dire” but does not need to be; governments in the region have been “too conservative,” he said. 

Menon said while governments are naturally risk adverse—and strict steps were initially put in place to suppress the spread of the virus domestically—the Asia-Pacific region, compared to the rest of the world, has been successful in containing the COVID-19 pandemic. While the ICAO’s Civil Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART) recommendations are widely adopted by airlines, governments are still slow to accept the new guidelines. 

“Staycations [and] self-sufficiency will only make the world poorer,” Menon said, referring to countries who are hoping to rely on domestic air travel. 

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Part of CART’s resolution, together with a joint declaration with IATA and ACI Asia Pacific, has called on governments to fully adopt CART to coordinate and harmonize aviation health measures and testing frameworks to restore trust. Menon cited the latest ICAO CART Take Off guidance—which was updated in early November, incorporating the latest medical advice and input from various stakeholders including the WHO, on issues including recommended testing standards for countries—and urged governments to adopt the measures. 

“Governments also shouldn’t compartmentalize the travel market,” Menon said when asked about the difference between allowing essential and leisure travel. Governments should instead provide transparent information about the country and let passengers “decide if it is their intent to travel,” he added. 

Menon said the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Transport Bubble (ATB) between Hong Kong International (HKG) and Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) exemplifies how risk assessment is applied and relies on robust and uniform testing procedures to ensure all travelers are COVID-19-free. The first flight between the two cities will begin Nov. 22. Menon also thinks airlines offering travel insurance that covers COVID-19 will let potential travelers have “something to cling on” and build their confidence in travel again. 

Photo credit: Hong Kong International Airport

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