Willie Walsh, the Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has criticised the approach of governments as impractical.
Speaking at the World Aviation Festival, Walsh who recently took over as boss at IATA said that “having a zero-risk approach is not practical in the current environment. We need to have sensible measures in place where proper risk assessments are done, and then actions are taken to mitigate against the known and unknown risks so people can carry on as they used to in the past. There is a case for caution and for managing that risk, but to attempt to completely eliminate the risk, we just do not believe that is possible.”
In addition, Walsh said the “cost of the PCR test is unacceptable. There is clear evidence of profiteering by people who have jumped on the bandwagon. You also have governments mandating testing and then charging VAT on top of something that they are saying is a critical service.”
“We have got to challenge this and I’m pleased to say that as we have started challenging it we have started to see things improving.”
“You’ve got the situation where you might fly into the UK for a medical appointment for instance, and you have to buy a package where you have a test on Day 2 and Day 8, even though you won’t be there on Day 8. Let’s call it what it is, which is a scam.”
Walsh said that there was “…a challenge over whether PCR testing is necessary.”
“With the research that has been done, rapid antigen and lateral flow are just as effective as PCR testing. As a part of a process in a stream of other measures, is something that is 88 per cent effective acceptable against something that is 92 per cent effective? I would argue that it is, given that it’s quicker, it’s more convenient for the customer and it’s cheaper. It’s part of a process. It’s not the only measure that has been taken.”
Walsh said “The goal is to allow people to travel safely,” and pointed to the work being done around the digital health pass proving a passenger had been tested.
“Airports will not function unless we have this digital solution so people can travel as seamlessly as possible, both on departure, and, crucially, on arrival. We can’t have all these bottlenecks on arrival.”
Walsh was confident that travel would return, and said that although the interview was taking place using technology, “I hate it.”
“It will take time for business travel to recover. Some people have commented that it’s not going to get back to where it was. People have embraced this technology. I hate it. It has enabled us to continue to function and to do business but it is nowhere near as being able to sit down and meet people.”
“I’m confident that travel will come back: domestic before international, leisure before business, but we have to be confident of 2022.”