IATA: Air travel safe if SOPs in place

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

THE risk of exposure to Covid-19 on passenger flights is very low provided proper measures are applied, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

IATA Asia-Pacific airports and external relations regional director Vinoop Goel said there have been only 44 reported cases of in-flight transmission reported since the start of the year out of the 1.2 billion passengers that have travelled.

“The odds of getting the virus on the plane are lower than getting struck by lightning, that’s what we say,” he said at the “Reopening Travel in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)” webinar yesterday.

He said global airlines are working to ensure a safe cabin environment by offering health screenings and ensuring physical distancing throughout the travelling period to avoid onboard transmission.

The aviation regulator is also actively working with insurance providers to address concerns of travelling by air during the pandemic.

“We are trying to work with insurance providers, as there is a commercial opportunity for them. At the same time, we are actively communicating the risks and safety precautions being taken to our passengers, while airlines are providing masks and important amenities onboard,” he said.

Airbnb Inc global policy and communications head Chris Lehane said 73% of individuals in Malaysia want to travel within the country.

“Right now, there is a global epidemic of loneliness. People are hurt that they’re not able to see or spend time with one another.

“I think ultimately, a lot of us are involved in this phase because we see the importance of bringing people together, people from different backgrounds experiencing different cultures, as an industry that exports human connection,” he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore Tourism Board CEO Keith Tan said the pandemic has allowed the tourism industry organisations to be better versed in science and technology.

“I have never focused on such things until recent months, when issues on Covid-19 testing and vaccination came to the fore, which raise questions on whether we bring in Singaporeans into the country without sending them for quarantine, but instead by testing them more frequently,” he said.

“It’s important that we keep track of these developments, especially among the travel industry so that we can put out good ideas to the parties involved and the government for consideration,” he added.

Despite the high demand and need for travel, it was reported that the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents said bookings have seen a decline since the start of the third wave, even if tourist destinations were not where increases in cases were reported.

The webinar “Reopening Travel in APEC” is a part of a three-session forum titled “Travel Reimagined”, held by the APEC and Airbnb Tourism.