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15 February 2022

Getting it right in 2022 through predictable and practical travel policies

As the industry grapples with a roller coaster effect of passenger demand due to government travel restrictions and new variants of COVID-19, airlines continue to call for more efficiency in the pandemic containment.  

In an interview for Airlines. magazine, Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO of TAP Air Portugal, discusses the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on airlines’ network and staff scheduling. “The biggest problem, of course, is the unpredictability. We are having new waves, new variants, and the impact is different in every country. It is impossible for airlines or their customers to plan with any certainty”.

In relation to aviation’s value to the economy, the CEO highlights the growing disparity in regulators’ perspectives on what challenges the industry is facing. For Ourmières-Widener, “All industry stakeholders and regulators have a different perspective, different interests, and a different balance sheet. What they think should be done and what they are able to do is extremely varied”.

“We have to be honest and say that the expectations of passengers are very low at the moment. For them, travel is a painful experience. What are the rules? What test do they need, how many, when, what paperwork? And will it all change tomorrow when they are away from home?” she added.

For Willie Walsh, IATA Director General, “The challenge for 2022 is to reinforce passenger confidence by normalizing travel. While international travel remains far from normal in many parts of the world, there is momentum in the right direction”.

To simplify air travel in the context of COVID-19, IATA had set out a blueprint with recommendations for governments to adopt simple, predictable, and practical measures to safely restore global mobility. The blueprint (pdf) focuses on three key areas:

  • Adoption of simplified health protocols with travel barriers removed for fully vaccinated passengers and pre-departure antigen testing for non-vaccinated travelers;
  • Implementation of digital solutions for the processing of health credentials, collection of traveler information, and communication of travel requirements;
  • Application of proportionate, risk-based COVID-19 measures with a continuous review process

Data from IATA Economics shows that recovery in international air travel stagnated in the first half of 2021 but improved gradually from June amid the reopening of some short-haul markets. In 2021, European carriers saw a 67.6% traffic decline versus 2019. For the month of December, traffic slid 41.5% compared to December 2019, an improvement over the 43.5% year-to-year decline in November. View detailed Air Passenger Market Analysis 2021.

Christine Ourmières-Widener is the CEO & Chairperson of the Executive Board at TAP Group, and an international Senior Business Leader with extensive experience in the aviation sector. Before assuming her role as TAP CEO, she was CEO at Flybe Group and CEO at CityJet.

Read the full interview on Airlines. magazine

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