Asia’s airlines ramp up flights, offers as tough COVID travel curbs ease

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  • Malaysia, Vietnam resume domestic flights
  • Singapore, Thailand, Fiji begin select international travel
  • Airlines still operating well below pre-pandemic capacity
  • Asia-Pac carriers will lose $11 billion in 2021, $2.4 billion in 2022 – IATA
  • ‘With Covid fatigue, it would be better to get out’ – Singapore traveler
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SYDNEY/SINGAPORE, Oct 13 (Businesshala) – Asia-Pacific airlines have lost billions of dollars this year, with jets frozen in a COVID-19 transport freeze. Now, as some of the world’s strictest pandemic-related travel rules begin to be eased, they are offering flights and tickets.

Asian travel agencies and carriers told Businesshala they were seeing a surge in bookings and travel inquiries as countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam allow domestic flights to resume from this week after months of strict lockdowns.

India is lifting a domestic capacity cap, while Singapore, Thailand and Fiji are opening up to international travelers from select countries without vaccinated quarantine.

While airline industry group IATA does not expect significant improvement in Asia-Pacific international travel until “later 2022” – forecasting a cumulative loss of $11.2 billion this year, limited to $2.4 billion next year – AirAsia Group (AIRA) .KL) to Vietjet Aviation (VJC.HM), Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI), Fiji Airways and Qantas (QAN.AX) are already adding capacity.

Subhash Menon, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, said, “The most important thing is that practically all governments in the Asia-Pacific region are abandoning their COVID-zero strategies, with perhaps one or two exceptions and a type of COVID-19. Moving towards a normal framework. .

“Vaccination rates are also starting to rise.”

While restrictions are being eased, a full return to normal operations is a long way off. IATA estimates that the global aviation industry will suffer $200 billion in losses from the pandemic for 2020-2022, and losses in Asia alone were close to $50 billion in 2020. International travel in the Asia-Pacific region was at around 4% of 2019 levels. August.

And although the easing of restrictions will open the way for some tourism, it will initially mean a comparatively difficult one: Thailand expects only about 100,000 foreign visitors this year, down from about 40 million in 2019.

Still, there has been a drop in demand from those who yearn to take a vacation abroad.

Dixon Ng, a 24-year-old consultant based in Singapore, said he plans to travel to Europe in January.

“We don’t know if these VTL (vaccinated travel lanes) can be cancelled, there is opportunity right now and there is COVID fatigue, so I think getting out of the country would be a good thing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fiji Airways has racked up thousands of bookings since the country announced on Sunday it would open borders on December 1 to vaccinated passengers from certain destinations, most of whom are Australian, an airline spokesman said.

Deals Vs. price hike

Some carriers are already promoting cheaper fares.

Vietnamese low-cost carrier VietJet is offering some free domestic one-way tickets excluding taxes and fees, while Malaysia’s AirAsia has fares as low as 12 ringgit ($2.88) as it scales flights.

AirAsia said traffic on its mobile app has increased by over 140 per cent since the government eased domestic travel rules.

But Singapore has capped the total number of arrivals under its VTL program at 3,000, a tiny fraction of pre-pandemic traffic – a move that has kept ticket prices high.

Singapore tour agency Chan Brothers Travel said there had been a 50-fold increase in inquiries last week as VTLs were added in more countries, including South Korea, the United States and the UK.

Economy-class fares from Singapore to South Korea have nearly doubled to about S$1500 ($1,107.50), from S$800 previously, said a spokesperson for Singapore’s Dynasty Travels.

“Some passengers may wait for the initial price hike for the flights to pass, but we can expect a considerable number of passengers to take to the skies by the first half of 2022,” she said.

($1 = 4.1630 ringgit)

($1 = 1.3544 Singapore Dollar)

Reporting by Jamie Freed and Aradhana Aravindan; Additional reporting by Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur and Chen Lin in Singapore; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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