The International Air Transport Association (IATA) wants to hold its next annual jamboree in Shanghai, China at the request of China Eastern Airlines which is based in the city. IATA director general Willie Walsh said he expected China to be open by next June when the event is scheduled but the country’s zero-COVID strategy could still scupper those plans.
Representing hundreds of airlines around the world, IATA members are currently meeting in Boston for this year’s annual general meeting where they are discussing the state of the industry amidst the pandemic.
Top of the agenda for Walsh and other airline leaders is getting countries to drop onerous pandemic restrictions. Walsh, who previously headed the parent company of British Airways at a time of record profits for the company, wants fully vaccinated travellers to face zero restrictions.
“Travel restrictions bought governments time to respond in the early days of the pandemic. Nearly two years later, that rationale no longer exists,” Walsh said on Monday. “There is little evidence to support ongoing border restrictions and the economic havoc they create,” he continued.
While fully vaccinated travellers shouldn’t face any barriers to travel according to IATA, unvaccinated travellers should be able to skip quarantine by taking a cheap rapid antigen test. IATA says the cost of testing should be borne by governments and not airlines or travellers.
In a recent analysis of 50 countries that account for 92 per cent of global air traffic, IATA found that only seven had no entry restrictions or quarantine requirements.
While slow and inconsistent, many countries are now making moves to reopen their borders and let more people travel. Even Australia, which maintained some of the toughest border rules in the world plans to reopen from next month.
China, however, remains an outlier in maintaining stringent entry requirements and doing everything in its power to completely eliminate COVID-19 within its borders.
The pandemic has brought many surprises in the past and there is always the fear that a new and dangerous variant could emerge. Still, China Eastern is majority-owned by the Chinese government so perhaps they have reason to believe that the country’s border restrictions might be loosened in time for IATA’s swanky gathering of airline leaders next June.
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.