The airline industry has lashed out at governments that are attempting to eliminate the COVID-19 virus saying that the success of New Zealand and Taiwan in controlling the novel Coronavirus is “an impossible task that comes with severe consequences” including huge job losses, mental health ramifications and the prolonged separation of loved ones.
Speaking at a media briefing, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which represents 290 airlines around the world slammed governments that had imposed tough travel restrictions including mandatory quarantine and pre-departure testing.
Alexander de Juniac accused several countries, including the UK, Canada, Germany and Japan of “knee-jerk” reactions to new Coronavirus variants discovered in the UK and South Africa – one of which is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than previous variants of the virus.
Claiming that a combination of mandatory quarantine and pre-departure testing would effectively “shut down travel”, de Juniac said: “This approach tells us that these governments are not interested in managing a balanced approach to the risks of COVID-19. They appear to be aiming for a zero-COVID world.”
“This is an impossible task that comes with severe consequences—the full extent of which it would be impossible to calculate,” he continued.
Instead, IATA has long demanded that governments introduce pre-departure testing as a way to do away with quarantine, claiming such a system would adequately reduce the risk of travellers importing the virus but accepting that some cases would slip through the net.
“Science tells us that travelers will not be a significant factor in community transmission if testing is used effectively,” de Juniac told reporters, although IATA has never offered a view on the success of countries like New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan in controlling community spread by catching positive cases at the border through mandatory hotel quarantine.
“Most governments have tunnel-vision on quarantine and are not at all focused on finding ways to safely re-open borders—or alleviate the self-imposed economic and mental health hardships of the lockdowns,” de Juniac continued.
And while IATA is currently working on an electronic travel passport that would store test and vaccination data, the trade body remains opposed to making COVID-19 vaccination compulsory for international travel.
So far, only Australian flag carrier Qantas has indicated that it will demand proof of vaccination for international flights, although a growing number of airlines including the likes of Delta Air Lines accept that this will likely be a requirement for both passengers and crew.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.