Asia-US travel "will come back", say airline execs

Latest CAPA Centre for Aviation panel discussions predict full international traffic recovery in 3-5 years.

The Singapore skyline. A trio of airline executives who participated in a CAPA Centre for Aviation panel in November are bullish about the medium- and long-term outlook for reconnecting Asia and the US.
The Singapore skyline. A trio of airline executives who participated in a CAPA Centre for Aviation panel in November are bullish about the medium- and long-term outlook for reconnecting Asia and the US. Photo Credit:TTstudio/Shutterstock.com

Ongoing tight travel restrictions in many Asia-Pacific countries have muted the impact of the US border reopening on the transpacific travel corridor.

But a trio of airline executives who participated in a CAPA Centre for Aviation panel in November are bullish about the medium- and long-term outlook for reconnecting Asia and the US.

"The demand will come back," said Brett Catlin, vice president of network and alliances at Alaska Airlines.

Speaking during the CAPA Live panel, Catlin noted the robust improvements in travel from the Europe market now that the US is once again welcoming Europeans tourists.

"I am confident that once Asia reopens we'll see a similar dynamic," he said.

While the world has recently discovered the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, President Biden has not issued a stop to the transpacific corridor, although new tighter safety measures include mandating inbound international passengers to undergo Covid-19 tests within a day of departure, regardless of vaccination status.

Singapore, India, Cambodia and Thailand are among the Asia-Pacific countries that are taking significant steps toward normalising international travel — also showing a quiet resolve to continue recovery efforts rather than shutting down economies again. However, most of the region continues to impose quarantines and various forms of travel bans.

As a result, connectivity between the US and Asia remains low. United Airlines, for example, plans to fly just 28% of its pre-pandemic Asia-Pacific schedule in December, said Walter Dias, the company's director for China, Korea and Southeast Asia sales. However, United will resume US-Singapore flight services in January 2022, starting with a four-times weekly schedule.

Alaska doesn't fly to Asia. But the carrier codeshares with American, and its home base of Seattle is a major transpacific business hub.

Catlin said he is optimistic that American will launch planned routes from Seattle to Shanghai and Bangalore, India, during the second half of next year, but the decisions will depend upon restrictions.

Akihide Yoguchi, Japan Airlines' vice president of strategy research for the Asia and Oceania regions, said that the prospects of a recovery would be helped if governments would align their rules. He said representatives of the Asian aviation industry need to make their voices heard on that issue.

Dias pointed to Singapore's Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) programme as a positive example in the region. Under the programme, vaccinated foreigners can enter the city-state without quarantine when they arrive on designated VTL flights.

"We're hoping that some of the other governments in the region will look to that model to kind of work with the industry to reopen the air flights," he said.

Dias predicted that international business traffic will reach full recovery in the next three to five years.

Source: Travel Weekly



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