IATA: Government policies risk jeopardizing network recovery

IATA regional VP for the Americas Peter Cerda highlighted that many routes in the region have been lost since the onset of the pandemic.

Almost 1,800 routes across the Americas have been lost during the pandemic and connectivity in the region will continue to suffer unless governments put a roadmap in place toward ending travel restrictions, IATA has warned.

Speaking at Routes Americas 2021 on June 23, IATA regional VP for the Americas Peter Cerda (pictured) said about 1,100 routes in North America have disappeared since 2019, while 665 across Latin America and the Caribbean have been canceled.

Cerda cautioned that that governments risk stifling economic and social recovery if they continue to implement stringent and inconsistent border policies that prevent airlines from reactivating parts of their network.

“Many countries around the world require passengers to have a costly PCR test before they’ll allow you to enter and there’s a whole slew of countries that make you quarantine before you’re allowed in,” he said.

“How encouraged are people going to be if they have to go into quarantine when they arrive or else self-isolate for days while they wait for the results of a test? Many governments are not helping a major part of social and economic recovery, which is air travel.”

Cerda pointed to the strong recoveries in Mexico and Colombia following their decision to allow entry without testing or quarantine restrictions. He contrasted this with Canada, where the country’s tight border controls mean air traffic remains about 77% down on 2019 levels.

“The sooner we open our borders, the sooner we remove boundaries, the sooner we give more liberty to those who are vaccinated and give options to those who are not through antigen testing, then the quicker that we’re going to be able to see the recovery,” Cerda said.

IATA estimates that about 7,500 global city pairs have been lost worldwide during the pandemic, dropping from 22,104 in 2019 to 14,675 at the end of 2020.

However, Cerda said the industry can recover to 2019 levels by 2025 if the right conditions for growth are put in place. He explained that the pent-up demand for travel is expected to fuel growth of about 8%-20% across the Americas region, depending on the country.

“The hope is there, the desire is there—we just need the tools and we need our government leaders to give us that opportunity to continue to grow,” Cerda said.

He expects the US recovery to be strong but said Latin America could be patchy if more airlines go bust and governments continue to introduce onerous taxes on the industry.

Photo credit: Craig Huey