Tuesday, August 3

AirAsia calls for standardised global protocols to facilitate cross border air travel recovery

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Bo Lingam

SEPANG: As vaccines continue to roll out across the globe and domestic air travel looks set to return to pre-Covid levels in the near future, AirAsia joins a number of leading aviation and tourism experts, in calling for a standardised approach to travel protocols to help kickstart the international air travel revival.

AirAsia group president (airlines) Bo Lingam said, “Covid-19 has left a severe impact on everyone and particularly on the travel and hospitality industries. In order to resume cross border travel activity effectively and safely, a mutually agreed global framework approach is needed.

“Travel requirements in the region are currently complex and uncoordinated and travel bubbles are limited and underutilised. While we welcome the implementation of certain travel passes which are currently being developed or in testing phases, what is needed to stimulate international air travel again, is coordination among countries.

“The travel and tourism industry must work together with one consistent set of protocols and procedures for guests such as testing and vaccination requirements, coupled with a mutually agreed common digital health pass and with the expansion of travel bubbles to include the leisure sector.

“Resuming air travel is a collective effort. By working together we will be in a much better position to welcome the return of international flying in the not too distant future, delivering a much needed boost to the global economy.”

His comments follow a recent AirAsia review of Covid-19 procedures and protocols in regional countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, China and Australia.

The review confirms that existing travel requirements vary across Asean countries, making it challenging and difficult for travellers to understand and follow. The different travel protocols across regional countries also pose operational difficulties to airlines and travel operators.

Without common travel protocols, manual verification of health and travel documents becomes more time consuming and is prone to error and fraud, especially with an increase in the use of fake health certification.

“Furthermore, with 40 to 50 per cent of the regional population expected to be vaccinated by the third quarter of 2021, travel policies should be updated regularly to reflect the current situation including the possible removal of quarantine requirements.

“A good example is in the Philippines where they have recently standardised all the travel requirements in the country and removed the ones that are no longer relevant,” said Bo.

The report also concludes that travel bubbles that are currently implemented in the region are mostly limited to business and essential travellers only. Business travellers are less likely to provide a much needed boost to the tourism industry as the majority of corporate meetings can now be conducted online.
A key recommendation is for the expansion of travel bubbles for leisure travellers to be implemented in phases starting with destinations in safe zones. Facilitating leisure travel will provide instant impact based on strong pent up demand.

Furthertravel risk can be minimised through implementation of strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and various measures including point to point controlled travel, fixed itineraries and contact tracing apps.