What The Travel Clampdowns Mean For Airlines' Recovery
This is an abbreviated verison of the article - Travel Clampdowns Dampen Airlines’ Hopes.
Airlines that had pinned their hopes on a summer 2021 recovery in demand, helped by widespread COVID-19 vaccinations, are facing the strong possibility that a slew of new travel restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of new coronavirus variants will limit that potential rebound.
At the beginning of February, the European Council, made up of the heads of EU member states, adopted updated rules on travel from countries outside the EU. The Council specified the infection statistics to use to determine countries for which nonessential travel restrictions can be lifted, and also mapped out testing, quarantine and contact tracing requirements.
Within the EU, the Council agreed to revise the existing system, a color-coordinated map tracking the evolution of the virus in different regions. It added a new “dark red” category to denote areas in which the virus is circulating at very high levels and discouraged all but nonessential travel to these areas.
Some member states have gone further than these new rules. France has banned travel to and from countries outside the European Union except for certain “compelling reasons,” such as attending a family funeral or looking after a vulnerable person.
The high number of new coronavirus cases in many countries, and the increased transmissibility of new variants, mean the moves do not come as a surprise.
Still, they represent a setback for airlines that had been counting on a summer recovery, helped by the rollout of vaccines. Ryanair even based an advertising campaign around the vaccine hopes, urging would-be passengers to “jab and go” for Easter and summer trips. But after a decision by the UK Advertising Standards Authority, the airline was forced to pull that campaign.
Wizz Air, which has seized opportunities for growth during the pandemic, says it could ramp back up to full capacity in two months when demand returns.
Provided vaccines are effective and the industry’s worst concerns do not materialize, IATA still expects a much better 2021 second half, as key markets start to see herd immunity. Once the situation is improving, the key question for Pearce is how governments will react. “So far they have been risk-averse,” he said.
“Eventually, governments will recognize that the risk of restarting our lives and travel is tolerable,” de Juniac said. Once that is the case, he added, “we will not waste a minute to reconnect the world.”
Read the full article - Travel Clampdowns Dampen Airlines’ Hopes - by Helen Massy-Beresford and Jens Flottau