Capital A - parent company of AirAsia - chief Tony Fernandes has called for a reduction in the number of coronavirus tests travellers in the region are required to take, though he stopped short of joining other airline chiefs in urging governments to drop the requirement altogether.
At a media briefing on 11 January to announce the reorganisation of AirAsia’s aviation units, Fernandes says he hoped Southeast Asian governments would “start to begin to remove some of these points of friction to travellers”.
While Southeast Asian markets are beginning to open up again, several countries still impose numerous testing requirements on incoming travellers, even if they are vaccinated.
For instance, Thailand and Singapore require travellers to take a pre-departure test and a post-arrival test, with Thailand mandating another test on the fifth day after arrival, and Singapore requiring travellers to self-test for seven days.
With Southeast Asia in the middle of an infection wave caused by the Omicron variant, Fernandes notes: “[Tourists] coming into the country… are not going to change the equation very much.”
While he believed that “quarantine is of no real use anymore because you are testing anyone, everyone”, Fernandes did not believe that testing should be done away with completely.
“I’m not advocating getting rid of testing in the short term. I’m saying you can do a pre-departure test, [but] when you arrive in a country, you don’t need one, having [already] had a test… or at the very minimum [a rapid antigen test],” he says.
“I don’t see the purpose [in having two or three tests]…if you think about the reason for testing, it is to stop a new variant coming to the country. So that reason has gone, that variant is now in all our countries,” Fernandes adds.
In recent months, several quarters in the airline industry have doubled down on calls for testing requirements to be eliminated, arguing that these restrictions will impact travel demand.
The UK government on 24 January announced it was dropping post-arrival testing for all fully-vaccinated travellers, a move that was understandably welcomed by the country’s airline industry.