Government response to Omicron threatens emerging recovery

posted on 2nd December 2021 by Eddie Saunders
Government response to Omicron threatens emerging recovery

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel continued in October 2021 with broad-based improvements in both domestic and international markets.

It also warned that the imposition of travel bans by governments, against the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO), could threaten the sector’s recovery.

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to October 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

  • Total demand for air travel in October 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 49.4% compared to October 2019. This was improved over the 53.3% fall recorded in September 2021, compared to two years earlier.
  • Domestic markets were down 21.6% compared to October 2019, bettering the 24.2% decline recorded in September versus September 2019.
  • International passenger demand in October was 65.5% below October 2019, compared to a 69.0% decline for September versus the 2019 period, with all regions showing improvement.

​​​​“October’s traffic performance reinforces that people will travel when they are permitted to,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

“Unfortunately, government responses to the emergence of the Omicron variant are putting at risk the global connectivity it has taken so long to rebuild”.

“The lifting of the US restrictions on travel from some 33 countries last month raised hopes that a surge in pent-up travel demand would buoy traffic over the coming Northern Hemisphere winter,” said Walsh.

“But the emergence of the Omicron variant panicked many governments into once again restricting or entirely removing the freedom to travel—even though WHO clearly advised that ‘blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.’

“The logic of the WHO advice was evident within days of Omicron’s identification in South Africa, with its presence already confirmed in all continents.

“The ill-advised travel bans are as ineffective as closing the barn door after the horse has bolted”.