March 11, (THEWILL) – The past few weeks has seen a dramatic shift by many governments around the world to ease or remove COVID-19-related travel restrictions and requirements as the disease enters its endemic phase.
As a follow up, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has opined that such development should continue and even accelerate, to more quickly restore damaged global supply chains and enable people to resume their lives.
IATA, an international aviation body, represents some 290 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic.
One step to encourage a return to normality, according to IATA, is to remove mask mandates for air travel.
It added that, “It makes no sense to continue to require masks on airplanes when they are no longer being required in shopping malls, theatres or offices.”
According to the Director General, IATA, Willie Walsh, “the recovery in air travel continued in January, despite hitting a speed bump called Omicron. Strengthened border controls did not stop the spread of the variant. But where population immunity was strong, the public health systems were not overwhelmed. Many governments are now adjusting COVID-19 policies to align with those for other endemic viruses. This includes lifting travel restrictions that have had such a devastating impact on lives, economies and the freedom to travel.”
Emphasising on the need to do away with face masks, Walsh added that “Aircraft are equipped with highly sophisticated hospital quality filtration systems and have much higher air flow and air exchange rates than most other indoor environments where mask mandates already have been removed.”
IATA DG was speaking following their latest analysis of demand for passenger air travel, based on data collected by region and worldwide during January 2022.
On the trend in the global traffic, Walsh said that despite the strong traffic growth recorded in January 2022 compared to a year ago, passenger demand remains far below pre-COVID-19 levels.
He informed that total Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPKs) in January were down 49.6%, compared to January 2019. International traffic was down 62.4%, with domestic traffic off by 26.5%.
On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Walsh pointed out that January traffic figures do not include any impact from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which began at the end of February.
The resulting sanctions and airspace closures are expected to have a negative impact on travel, primarily among neighbouring countries.
“The Ukraine market accounted for 3.3% of European passenger traffic and 0.8% of global traffic in 2021.
“The Russian international market represented 5.7% of European traffic (excluding Russia domestic market) and 1.3% of global traffic in 2021.
“Airspace closures have led to rerouting or cancellations of flights on some routes.
“In addition to these disruptions, the sudden spike in fuel prices is putting pressure on airline costs”, Walsh said.