The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) is urging Asia-Pacific governments to ease “unduly onerous restrictions” and collaboratively develop a consistent framework for restoring international air travel.

“Public attitudes towards air travel are evolving as confidence is rebuilt,” the trade body says. “However, a major obstacle is the widespread imposition of blanket quarantine measures by governments on inbound passengers.”

AAPA says: “This makes any attempt to travel internationally by air extremely daunting, with questionable benefits over the need for quarantines once adequate community testing and contact tracing measures are in place.”

It adds that changing and unpredictable requirements add to the confusion for both airlines and passengers.

AAPA calls ICAO’s guidance in the form of the Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART) a significant step in the right direction to restart international air travel, but says progress has been slow and sporadic.

“Whilst there have been initiatives and discussions about opening up international air corridors, travel bubbles, green lanes or fast channels, such initiatives have so far failed to take off due to their impractical requirements and inherent unscalability to meet the reasonable expectations of the travelling public.”

The association opines that measures to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, such as widespread testing, contact tracing, social distancing and wearing of masks, have made good progress. However, if applied to international air travel, these need to be consistent, based on robust risk assessments, and coordinated among governments in close cooperation with airlines, airports and health authorities.

Director general Subhas Menon says: “Quarantine measures should only be applied selectively for passengers originating from higher risk locations. Another critical area for cooperation is reaching a common understanding on the use of Covid-19 testing as a further risk mitigation measure in screening international passengers, based on mutual acceptance.”

Menon notes that a pragmatic approach is necessary to restart flights gradually while mitigating risks to restore confidence and trust in the reliability of everyday air travel.

He says: “After more than six months, the lack of a framework encompassing harmonised or mutually recognised measures that are pragmatic, consistent and based on robust risk assessment, will not only irretrievably hurt the region’s airlines, but more importantly, negatively impact the region’s tourism and trade prospects, as well as millions of livelihoods.”