AAPA Hopeful For China Reopening

Credit: Cynthia Lee / Alamy Stock Photo

SINGAPORE—When China eventually reopens its borders, the head of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) believes passenger traffic will surge.

AAPA Director General Subhas Menon said he was encouraged by the reopening of borders in Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam in recent weeks, but was concerned about China, which remains closed to international travel as it continues a strict lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It will be inevitable that they come to the party after they see the rest of the region steal the march to recovery,” Sughas said. “China is almost like an elephant; it may be slow to get up, but once it starts running, it will be unstoppable.”

Subhas hopes that in the meantime, testing requirements that remain in place across the Asia-Pacific region can be relaxed as vaccination rates increase so that quicker, cheaper rapid antigen tests are accepted instead of more costly PCR tests that take longer to process. And testing should not be necessary for fully-vaccinated travelers, he said.

“We know that omicron is driven by community infection. There shouldn’t be a difference between flying in an aircraft or walking into a shopping center. You don’t test to go into a shopping center, so taking a flight from Australia to the U.S. shouldn’t be different from traveling from one end of Singapore to another,” he said.

Subhas, speaking on the eve of the Singapore Airshow, also said the industry should not lose its momentum on sustainability efforts as it recovers from the pandemic’s effects, adding the air show was an opportunity to come together on this issue. AAPA has set up an environment working group focused on increasing fuel efficiency, availability of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) feedstocks and carbon offsets.

The industry should also do more to promote the CORSIA offsetting scheme, Subhas said, pointing out that this global agreement, secured through ICAO, does not get as much attention as technology initiatives such as hydrogen-powered aircraft development or SAF production. AAPA and other industry groups and airlines should “up their game” on publicity efforts, he said.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.