The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged Asia-Pacific states to ease border measures to accelerate the region’s recovery from Covid-19.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general, spoke on the subject at the Changi Aviation Summit, stating:

“Asia-Pacific is playing catch-up on restarting travel after COVID-19, but there is growing momentum with governments lifting many travel restrictions. The demand for people to travel is clear.

“As soon as measures are relaxed there is an immediate positive reaction from travelers. So it is critical that all stakeholders, including governments are well-prepared for the restart. We cannot delay. Jobs are at stake and people want to travel.”

Walsh urged governments to remove all restrictions for vaccinated travellers, as well as lifting quarantine and Covid-19 testing for unvaccinated travellers “where there are high levels of population immunity”.

He added that the mask mandate for air travel should also be removed when it is no longer required in other indoor environments and public transport.

The region’s international passenger demand for the month of March reached 17 per cent of pre-Covid levels, following levels of below 10 per cent for most of the last two years.

Walsh attributed the lag to government restrictions. “The sooner they are lifted, the sooner we will see a recovery in the region’s travel and tourism sector, and all the economic benefits that will bring,” he added.

Walsh noted that China and Japan were slow to recover in the region and urged the two countries to rethink their measures.

“So long as the Chinese government continues to maintain their zero-COVID approach, it is hard to see the country’s borders reopening. This will hold back the region’s full recovery.

“While Japan has taken steps to allow travel, there is no clear plan for the reopening of Japan for all inbound visitors or tourists. More needs to be done to further ease travel restrictions, starting with lifting quarantine for all vaccinated travelers, and removing both the on-arrival airport testing and daily arrival cap. I urge the government of Japan to take bolder steps towards recovery and opening of the country’s border.”

The director general also called on Asia-Pacific governments to support the aviation industry’s sustainability measures and targets, and to look for opportunities in the region to expand the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

He noted positive developments in countries such as Japan, which has committed considerable funds for green aviation initiatives, and the cooperation of New Zealand and Singapore on green flights.

“Singapore’s cross industry International Advisory Panel on a sustainable aviation air hub is a positive example for other states to adopt,” he added.

For more information on the summit, read Walsh’s keynote address.

Last week IATA berated the Dutch government for impeding air travel recovery.