Clear policy for air travel required

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by TMR FILE

CAPTAINS of the aviation industry are requesting the authorities to formulate a more definite and consistent policy that could be effective guidelines for airlines, in anticipation of a recovery phase once the Covid-19 pandemic is under control.

Layang-Layang Flying Academy Sdn Bhd chairman Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the current lack of direction in the aviation business has added to uncertainties among passengers and aviation companies on the future of travelling.

“We need a strong body that can look at all policies around the world. Each country can have its own rule and regulation, but we need to be consistent.

“Take a look at the Asia Covid-19 vaccine timeline, it goes beyond 2025 for countries like Afghanistan, this is among other challenges,” he said in webinar series — “The Aviation Industry: Taking Us to the Skies Again?”

AirAsia Bhd CEO Riad Asmat said the level of consistency on Covid-19 testing or acceptable testing across the region could lead to recovery.

“We feel that we can recover, maybe not to pre-Covid level, but the level of sustainability. For us, we are lucky that being in Malaysia, the domestic movement is just as important as the international.

“Once the situation gets better, I expect by year-end, we should be able to at least fly domestically again as what we did previously when the Movement Control Order was slightly lifted,” he added.

As for the international routes, Riad conceded that there is a need for consistency across the board.

“I believe Malaysia is doing a good job in taking the lead in many ways, but there are some countries that could emulate what we are doing.

“That’s where the discussion needs to occur. We hope those in a more powerful position could create a situation where some normalcy or understanding can occur,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pangolin Investment Management Pte Ltd director Mohshin Aziz said a “vaccine passport” is not a new concept.

He said some 20 to 30 years ago, people needed to carry a yellow card with a vaccine record if they came from third world countries like Africa and Latin America.

“If this vaccine card is back, we should not view it with reservation. The computer systems in place are more powerful nowadays and this can be implemented fairly easily and without prohibitive cost.

“The International Civil Aviation Organisation, International Air Transport Association or World Health Organisation must try their best to ratify and develop a common vaccine passport that is accepted the world over.

“If successfully implemented, this will greatly aid air travel recovery,” he said.

Mohshin said a clear and uniform standard operating procedure (SOP) must be in place to dispel any uncertainty and discomfort among passengers.

He said the government must rope in the Ministry of Health to be part of the initiative that could lead to a safer travel policy that is more prepared to adjust to the post-pandemic recovery efforts.

“Create a step-by-step recovery roadmap. Start locally, before expanding to the travel bubble in safer countries. Then, gradually open the international corridors,” he said.

Mohshin said people are expected to take health factors and signals more seriously for air travel in the future.

“Perhaps, people who are showing signs of being unwell — high temperature, constant sneezing, headache) — might be denied entry.

“For now, we are not hearing any formal procedure leading towards this. But, in our day-to-day lives, we are already seeing this. If you sneeze so much nowadays, you cannot go to work. I think this is the trend going forward,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd aviation marketing and development GM Mohamed Sallauddin Mohamed Shah said the stakeholders have to plan for any eventualities with the opening of the borders.

“Travel bubble can be a catalyst to revive international travel because there are certain sets of standards of protocol and SOPs that can be promoted and enhanced.

“We can partner countries that have successfully handled the Covid-19 pandemic and managed to flatten the curve consistently when it comes to a new infection,” he said.