Airlines hope vaccine passports will kick start the industry
- Concerns over the future of UK airports and airlines rise as the government tightens travel restrictions
- Joe Biden has a mammoth task of rebuilding the US economy and the travel industry
- Airlines and industry professionals are hoping that COVID vaccine passports will boost recovery and kick start the industry
- Singapore Airlines launches one-stop service for COVID-19 testing
The aviation industry is in dire straits due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The sector’s future also remains uncertain as governments continue to tighten travel restrictions to curb the spreading of the virus.
UK industry professionals have become increasingly concerned about UK airports and airlines following the government’s decision to close the travel corridors list and require all arrivals to prove a negative PCR test taken within three days of departure.
Arrivals will also be required to quarantine for ten days but can shorten the self-isolation period if they take another COVID-19 test five days later and the results come back negative.
The government decided to impose more stringent travel restrictions after scientists confirmed that a new more contagious strain of the virus has emerged in Brazil, which could have the capacity to reinfect those who have already fought off COVID-19.
British Airways parked up a further ten planes at Palma airport following the announcement. There has been speculation that the airline will ground more of its fleets with the UK’s new travel ban expected to remain in place until February 15th at the earliest.
Virgin Atlantic is also keen to make up for the slump in passenger demand by increasing the availability of its cargo flights by 60%, to offer approximately 33 cargo-only rotations per week in January.
However, the UK aviation isn’t the only travel industry in a desperate situation as US travel agents, airlines and airports are also struggling amid the ongoing pandemic.
US travel industry is in a “catastrophic situation”
US President Joe Biden has a mammoth task ahead of him regarding the US economy, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The travel industry is one of the worst-hit sectors of the economy. American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) Executive Vice President, Eben Peck, has described the US’s current situation as “catastrophic.”
Last month the US unleashed additional stimulus for airlines that had worked with the Department of Treasury, which saw American Airlines, Envoy Air and other air transport companies receive more than USD 3BN in government support.
American Airlines, which has entered into an extension with the US Treasury’s Payroll Support Program (PSP) has now received more than USD 5BN since the pandemic began.
However, with countries tightening travel restrictions in response to clusters of new mutant strains being identified worldwide, the aviation industry remains on the brink of collapse.
While the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines will allow the travel industry to breathe an immense sigh of relief, vaccination programmes are still in their early stages, and as a result, much is still uncertain.
Reportedly, the US intends to follow the UK’s footsteps and introduce stricter travel restrictions to protect public health and “further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
After Trump said he would lift travel restrictions this week, Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for Joe Biden, tweeted that the Biden administration has no intention of doing so and will maintain the travel ban on most visitors from the EU, UK and South America.
Inevitably, this will cause more economic turmoil for airlines and travel firms, many of which have called for governments to introduce COVID air passes or vaccine passports rather than travel bans to counter the downturn.
Vaccination passports or COVID air passes to be introduced
Business magnate and founder of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson is a supporter of the controversial COVID-19 vaccine passports, which he hopes will be made available to all prospective travellers who have been vaccinated.
Sir Branson believes these vaccine passports will help kick-start the ravaged travel industry and encourage travel resumption by potentially allowing inoculated passengers to bypass lengthy virus mitigation measures.
In an interview with the CNBC, Richard Branson said: “Hopefully there will be a proof-of-vaccination piece of paper that people can use to be able to get on a plane without having to be tested or without having to quarantine.”
His comments follow news that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require travellers leaving the United States to produce a negative COVID test before departure.
A new group, backed by Microsoft and Oracle, called the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI) is reportedly developing technology to create a cyber COVID passport, which would allow vaccination records to be stored inside a digital wallet.
Emirates airline is already due to roll out trials of the so-called vaccine passport technology in April. The United Arab Emirates flagship carrier has partnered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to test out the “covid air passes” via the IATA Travel Pass mobile app.
Passengers flying with Emirates will be able to prove that they have met the requirements for the country they intend to travel to by verifying that they’ve either received a COVID-19 vaccine or a negative test before travelling via the app.
The Dubai-based carrier is the first airline to launch a vaccine passport, although there have been rumours that the UK is also trialling “immunity passports.”
Although COVID passports have been branded as discriminatory by several industry leaders, including World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) CEO, Gloria Guevara, many see it as a huge step towards recovery in international travel and a means for airlines to profit.
Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines has introduced a one-stop service for COVID testing after claiming that it will be the world’s first vaccinated international airline.
Some passengers travelling to Singapore will be able to streamline testing arrangements via Singapore Airlines or SilkAir as part of ongoing efforts to produce a more seamless service for passengers.
Singapore Airlines also aims to vaccinate the 37,000 frontline workers in its international transportation sector, to make travel smoother and safer for its aircrew and visitors.