After the most challenging year the aviation industry has ever faced, we speak with IATA’s Vinoop Goel about the rollout of the IATA Travel Pass, government restrictions, and rough days ahead for airlines.
Many believe airlines and airports are hot zones for infection but is that really the case?
More than a billion people have travelled by air since the Covid-19 pandemic started more than a year ago, while the number of Covid-19 cases in which transmission is thought to be associated with a flight journey has been very low (less than 100). Most of these cases happened before measures such as the wearing of masks on flights were required. At the same time, research conducted separately by Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, and the US Transportation Command (of the Department of Defense) showed that aircraft airflow systems actually limit the spread of the virus on flights.
What are your predictions for business travel’s rebound?
We don’t see passenger demand recovering to 2019 levels until 2024 at the earliest, with short-haul travel recovering faster than long haul travel. We believe international leisure travel will return faster than business travel once borders are re-opened, as companies tighten their spending.
What role will technology play in air travel in the coming years?
The crisis has accelerated the digital transformation of the industry. Take the IATA Travel Pass for example. It digitizes a decades-long practice of paper documents, such as the yellow fever book, as well as contactless travel such as the use of digital passports.
Explain how the IATA Travel Pass will help bring back travel quicker
For governments to re-open international borders without quarantine and restart aviation they need to be confident that they are mitigating the risk of importing Covid-19 and have confidence in a passenger’s declared Covid-19 status, be it testing or vaccination. The IATA Travel Pass can facilitate that. It will help passengers easily and securely manage their travel in line with government requirements for Covid-19 tests or vaccines.
What will be the biggest hurdles when it comes to the Travel Pass’ adoption?
We believe there is a pent up demand to travel, especially for personal travel. Based on our poll of recent travellers, 80% are encouraged by the prospect of the IATA Travel Pass and would use it as soon as available. However, the travel pass alone is not the magic bullet for restarting travel if governments do not remove restrictions such as quarantine. This means the priority is still for governments to establish a roadmap towards reopening borders and relaxing travel restrictions once it is safe to do so and to share this roadmap with the industry so as to allow airlines to plan ahead and provide the necessary connectivity.
What moves can we expect to see from airlines as they try to reclaim market share and rebuild their networks?
That will be a commercial decision by individual airlines.
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