Omicron hides international travel prospects that are just beginning

A passenger arrives at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport terminal as countries respond to the novel Omicron coronavirus amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Washington, DC, November 30, 2021. REUTERS / Carlos Barria

Carlos Barria | Reuters

The proliferation of the Covid omicron variant around the world could further delay the recovery of the tourism industry, which presents a new challenge, as does the number of international travel on the rise after a 20-month slump.

The option, first reported by South African scientists last week when the first U.S. case was confirmed in California on Wednesday, triggered a new series of travel restrictions that have taken many travelers by surprise, leaving some stranded as several countries flights were temporarily banned or passengers from other countries were arriving. region.

The US said Thursday that arriving international travelers, including American citizens, will be required to show proof of a negative Covid test that was tested within one day of departure, compared to three days for vaccinated arrivals and regardless of vaccination status.

Some aircraft executives are optimistic that demand will continue to rebound despite the option.

“Obviously we’ve seen more canceled flights, but it’s really too early to talk about it,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told reporters Thursday in a hangar at Washington National Airport, Ronald Reagan, after he flew one of his aircraft that are half powered by environmentally friendly aviation fuel. Kirby said he doesn’t expect bookings to drop as much as in the case of the delta version.

“The next peak will be at a higher level,” he said.

General Electric Aviation CEO John Slattery said airline customers are still planning a “strong spring and strong summer.”

Lower projections

“I hope that governments around the world will support the philosophy and policy of open borders,” Slattery said at the same United event.

However, on Tuesday, Fitch Ratings downgraded this year’s global air traffic forecast to just over half the 2019 level from its previous forecast of a 35% drop and lowered its forecast for 2022 and 2023, noting “new, highly contagious options. such as Omicron emphasize the likelihood that operating conditions will remain unstable, as well as the risk of deteriorating forecasts. ”

Japan, Israel and Morocco have some of the strictest rules temporarily banning foreigners. The UK is currently requiring Covid PCR tests for overseas arrivals, and the US on Monday began barring visitors from South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, three weeks after the cancellation a pandemic ban on foreign visitors.

“Increased travel restrictions, testing requirements and quarantine restrictions may have a larger impact on travel than the option itself,” said Henry Harteveld, a former airline executive and founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a consulting firm.

Cancellation at the last minute

The option is already undermining some business travel, another segment that has lagged behind domestic travel during the pandemic. The London Bullion Market Association has canceled its annual gala dinner for precious metals traders and others in the industry, which was set for Wednesday.

“This decision was made in response to tightening COVID-19 restrictions in the UK and around the world following the opening of a new variant of Omicron, which has particularly impacted travel, testing and quarantine requirements,” the association said on its website. … “This decision was not taken lightly and we believe that it is in the interests of all participants, given the current circumstances.”

Last week, the International Broadcasting Convention canceled its in-person event in Amsterdam, which had been scheduled for December 3-6.

“The move follows growing concern over the COVID-19 situation in the Netherlands, which has worsened over the past week, as well as feedback from exhibitors and IBC visitors,” it said. “The IBC Partnership Council took a decision today to prevent exhibitors and visitors from traveling to the Netherlands.”

U.S. travel has fared better than international travel, and U.S. carriers have had their busiest days since the pandemic began in Thanksgiving week. According to Kayak.

Network carriers such as Delta, American and United, the US airlines that are most dependent on international travel, have seen a sharp increase in overseas bookings after the US announced the lifting of travel restrictions in the fall. United resumed nonstop flights to Cape Town, South Africa on Wednesday from Newark, New Jersey.

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