Airports council: Countries with good vaccination rates need to reopen borders

Passengers queuing up at the KLIA check-in counters. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

Countries that have satisfactory vaccination rates need to reopen borders and relax quarantine requirements, says the Airports Council International (ACI) Asia-Pacific.

The council said that this is to prevent the repeat of a bleak year for Asia Pacific and Middle East airports. The statement came following the release of latest figures forecasting sustained losses in 2021 for airports in both regions.

Despite the resumption of some domestic travel, Asia Pacific is forecasted to close out the year with around 56% passenger losses. And consistent with forecasts previously reported in 2020, the Middle East will be one of the hardest-hit regions globally with almost 70% passenger losses.

The two regions are forecasted to lose over 2.3 billion passengers by the end of this year.

ACI Asia-Pacific director-general Stefano Baronci said the forecast painted a bleak picture for the aviation sector.

“The latest ACI forecast shows that after a bad 2020 in terms of traffic and revenues, 2021 was even more dismal for Asia Pacific and Middle East airports,” he said in a statement.

The particularly negative outcome in Asia Pacific is a direct consequence of travel restrictions and quarantine policies observed in many countries in the region.

“A repeat of the dismal 2021 can be avoided for 2022 if more governments can adopt the risk-based, pragmatic approaches recommended by ICAO and the WHO,” Baronci said.

The approach in question would be for governments in countries that have satisfactory vaccination rates to reopen borders.

According to Baronci, more major economies in Asia would have fully vaccinated over 70% of their populations by the end of 2021. This progress, he said, would bring an “additional layer of protection against the coronavirus”.

“With continued careful monitoring of public health situations through indicators such as hospitalisation and mortality rates, more governments are urged to expedite the calculated risk of relaxing quarantine policies, and follow the global trend of adopting digital health certificates with a view of supporting the resumption of international air travel,” he said.

Meanwhile, AirAsia recently celebrated the resumption of its service to Phuket and Bangkok in Thailand. Its most recent inaugural service from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok took off with a 65% flight load.

“Encouraged by the robust demand for flights to Phuket and Bangkok, we look forward to mounting more flights to Thailand soon,” said AirAsia chief executive officer Riad Asmat in a statement.

Fully vaccinated travellers from Malaysia who wish to travel to Thailand must meet the requirements set by the Thai government.

Earlier this month, the carrier also mounted more flights to, from and within Sabah as the state further relaxes entry requirements for Malaysians and non-Malaysians.

Beginning Nov 1, out-of-state visitors to Sabah no longer need to obtain entry approval from the state government and police.

Apart from being fully vaccinated, travellers only need to present a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR or RTK-Ag test result.

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