Health new priority for the airlines

Health new priority for the airlines

Health measures will be a key concern for the aviation industry going forward, says chief executive of Star Alliance, Jeffrey Goh.

"After the 9/11 tragedy, we focused on security and enforced some restrictions on sharp instruments, liquids and gels," he said. "The coronavirus crisis will now bring health to the forefront."

New regulations on protective and health equipment or accessories will be introduced on the ground and on-board. Passengers must embrace health screening technology in supporting new measures.

After imposing travel restrictions for the past month, some airlines in Thailand restarted domestic services at the beginning of May with a set of hygiene guidelines that carriers and passengers must follow.

Mr Goh said there are many ideas circulating about social distancing on the ground and on-board, but whether they are effective from a public health perspective or economically sustainable remains to be seen.

"There are also ideas about certification of fitness to fly [being free of coronavirus]. Whether this can be implemented efficiently and effectively requires discussion," he said.

Mr Goh speculated many airlines may shrink in size, which means the ability to ensure seamless travel becomes more important to ensure customer convenience.

He said recovery will be slow with domestic travel reviving first, with an international rebound uneven as countries are likely to lift restrictions at different times given different stages of the pandemic.

The economic fallout from the outbreak, including rising unemployment rates, lower corporate earnings and decreased disposable income will impact the travel and tourism recovery, said Mr Goh.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates the contagion will cause a US$314 billion revenue loss, down 55% year-on-year, for the global aviation industry. Airlines in Asia-Pacific will see the largest revenue drop of $113 billion, plunging 47.5% from 2019.

Passenger demand in the region will drop by 50% year-on-year because of severe travel restrictions, said IATA.

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