Air Travel Slowly Recovers as Summer Marches Ahead

June 14 2021


As most of the first world eases out of lockdown and various nation’s vaccination regimes begin to make it feasible for governments to permit large-scale civil aviation once more, travellers are keeping a watchful eye on what their countries are permitting, as well as what receiving nations allow.

The situation is rapidly changing. Effective vaccination rollouts in Europe, America and the UK are endangered by the spreading threat of new strains, such as the B.1.617.2 variant, first identified in India. As The Guardian newspaper reported recently, this strain has more than doubled its prevalence among key communities in the UK over the last week.

Fortunately, according to America’s CDC, no new variant has so far proven to defeat the currently available vaccines. Still, such rapid mutation and transmission have naturally led to a reticence on the part of some governments to fully reopen their aviation sectors. As the lucrative summer months approach, pressure is mounting to agree on safety measures to permit safe travel.

Two Approaches to Safe Global Aviation

Geographical regions are taking different approaches to air travel restriction. Risk is either assessed at the level of specific countries, or individual travellers. The latter strategy is harder to assess without some method of evidencing vaccination, the “vaccine passport”.

Here are some of the current restrictions per region:

European Union

The EU recently reached an agreement to cease quarantine restrictions for air travellers from certain countries of origin. At time of writing, this includes the USA; however, there are key conditions:

  • Fully vaccinated passengers can travel without quarantine restrictions upon arrival.
  • Non-vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine only if they are travelling from countries that have a two-week new case rate of less than 75 people per 100,000.

USA

The US is currently maintaining an exclusion list of 33 countries from which passengers will not be admitted (except US citizens). This includes the European Union, Brazil, China, India, Iran, South Africa and the UK. Although there have been moves to pressure the US to follow the European Union’s lead, there has so far been no announcement concerning the lifting of these restrictions.

UK

Great Britain and Northern Ireland have adopted a country-by-country approach, with green, amber and red lists, and travel for non-essential purposes permitted since 17 May 2021.

At present, the only countries on the unrestricted access list (green) are Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Israel and two remote island nations (South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and St Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha).

The UK’s amber list countries (including France, Italy, Spain, and Greece) have a statutory 10-day quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirement for all inbound visitors, plus UK citizens returning from those countries. This includes vaccinated travellers. The added expense of such requirements will most likely make holidaying in the UK unlikely and business trips unfeasible.

Red list countries from which air travel to the UK is forbidden at present include India, most of Africa and much of Central and South America. UK residents can return from these countries but are subject to the same quarantine restrictions as amber visitors and returnees.

Australia

Australia took an early and severe stance on air travel restriction, closing its borders in March 2020 during the first pandemic surge. It has remained fully closed to all international travel since then and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced that there were no plans to open its borders until 2022, striking a significant blow for its homegrown aviation industry.

Travel Industry Fights back for Summer 2021

Given the complexities and different approaches various countries and regions are taking to the ongoing pandemic, it’s all too easy to be pessimistic about overseas travel. However, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about borders reopening in time for the summer boom.

As part of its strategy to increase global travel, IATA has initiated a Travel Pass Initiative. This is a downloadable app that will display both information about a country’s requirements for entry and the vaccination status of the individual traveller.

The idea behind the travel pass is to give governments, airlines, and individual travellers the confidence to undertake air travel once more, without worries that passengers will be turned back at borders, quarantined or otherwise obstructed. Of course, this is still dependent on individual countries not suddenly changing their rules on entry.

EU and US Tourism Initiatives

Of all the regions, the European Union has recently adopted the most generous policy towards non-EU holidaymakers, a proposal to reopen borders fully to non-EU citizens who are fully vaccinated, without any requirement for mandatory quarantine. Given how locked-down much of the world remains, this could prove highly lucrative for European tourism operators in summer 2021.

Based on recent CDC data, this move towards new openness should take effect soon, although a list of approved countries has yet to be released. Within the next few weeks, a similar announcement is expected from the Biden administration in the US.

In April 2021, global air capacity sat at 43% of its level in April 2019, according to OAG. However, this is considerably better than the comparative month in 2020 and flights are predicted to rise to 80% of pre-pandemic levels by July or August.

That said, small airlines unable to wait out a full year with little or no international business have suffered the most. One enthusiast’s blog lists over 40 airlines that suspended business or filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 and 2021. The gradual lifting of restrictions will come too late for many, although the more robustly financed airlines will most likely weather the storm.

COVID-19 Travel Restrictions and Private Aviation

Hadid International Services will continue to go from strength to strength, despite any privations the pandemic has imposed. In part this is due to HADID’s unique business model, which is highly diversified, catering to various segments of aviation from the lesser impacted cargo and defence aviation to private flights and the more seriously affected commercial aviation. From HADID’s private aviation arm, the company is able to make social distancing somewhat easier to achieve, with its spacious lounges, private jet handling and tailored concierge services.

Headquartered in Dubai, HADID offers flight support services at airports throughout the world, at more than 1500 airports in 181 countries. 67 major airlines use HADID for seasonal permit issuing.

HADID Riviera, at Riviera Airport the only privately owned general aviation airport in Italy, continues to welcome its executive visitors to the Italian and French Riviera as the easing of COVID-19 restrictions make the European Union a favoured destination once again.

Among the services HADID continues to offer at all its locations are private jet handling, parking, and refuelling, visa and insurance arrangements, hotel reservations, door-to-door ground travel arrangements, air charter and full-service flight planning.

HADID can also advise you on any ongoing restrictions and limitations for travel as developments occur. Visit www.hadid.aero for more information.