International flights recovery setbacks by Omicron

Published on : Wednesday, December 8, 2021

New travel restrictions prompted by the Omicron coronavirus variant have set back the nascent recovery in international flights, creating delays and headaches in some regions, according to airline and airport officials.

The flurry of new testing rules and border closings has raised concerns ahead of the important Christmas travel season, but some airline bosses said they hope any backward moves will be short-lived.

The global airlines have blamed a patchwork of shifting rules for depressed demand for international travel, which is critical for their return to profit following steep COVID-19 pandemic-related losses in 2020.

American Airlines incoming Chief Executive Robert Isom told that Texas-based carrier’s return to profitability is contingent on a full-scale recovery in travel demand. American has the largest debt stock in the U.S. airline industry.

He said the airline’s domestic business remained strong but the new travel restrictions had dampened demand in some international markets.

Airline stocks have recovered some ground following a sell-off last week. While investors are taking heart from anecdotal evidence that suggests the new variant might not be as lethal as originally feared, it could take weeks, even months to know its effect on the course of the pandemic. U.N. agencies specializing in aviation and tourism pleaded on Tuesday for travel restrictions in response to new coronavirus variants to be imposed only as a last resort.

Japan has banned foreigners, the United States is requiring a COVID-19 test 24 hours before flying, and travellers to Singapore now must be tested daily for seven days after arrival.

Airlines and travel agencies are hopeful that rising vaccination rates and new medicines would make a difference.

But Sue Carter, head of Asia Pacific at booking technology firm Travelport, said she has seen some searches go down week on week, adding that traveller confidence tends to be closely linked to government announcements.

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