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Asian airline recovery: slow vaccines rollout, new waves and....

Asian airlines are suffering deeply as international doors remain closed. What's more, borders are unlikely to open at any scale until well into 2022.

The slow and uneven pace of vaccine rollout in the region will play a very significant part in delays – probably magnified by the apparent disparities in recognition of vaccines, for example in the EU's Green Pass conditions, and in China's insistence on use of Sinovac.

Also, hopes of even a series of bilateral bubbles appears a fragile hope, illustrated by the regular postponement of the Singapore-Hong Kong arrangement and the constant readjustment of the Australia-New Zealand bubble. The resurgence of the coronavirus in many markets across the region only serves to diminish those aspirations.

But there is one other major factor that is much less visible and considerably harder to measure.

It is the underlying health-based strategic approach and almost region-wide governmental levels of risk tolerance that will lock in a slow recovery. This is in stark contrast to the approach followed for example by the US, and promises a patchwork of renewal in what is the world's fastest growing economic region.

In practical terms it also means that international airlines in the region will go to the wall unless government support is forthcoming. But merely propping up airlines that have been unprofitable for years is not a strategy; it is time to look at what the market needs in future, and to devise ways of ensuring national markets emerge with aviation systems that truly benefit their best national interests.


  • Asia's borders are unlikely to open to aviation and travel, at any scale, until well into 2022.
  • Slow vaccination rollout will be a major stumbling block.
  • Several markets are suffering from a new wave of COVID-19.
  • The region's governments have a much lower health risk tolerance than the US, for example.
  • The region's international airlines will not survive without substantial government support – but it should be strategic, not same-old-same-old.

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