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When will international air travel fly again after COVID-19?

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A return to a cheaper level of international air travel is unlikely to be possible until there is greater agreement between nations on COVID-19 tests and the vaccination documentation needed to travel abroad, experts say.

However, a year and a half after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, it is still unclear when such a consensus will be reached.

“Every country wants to do its job and they really have to get over it and come out on the same page,” said Marion Joppe, a professor at the School of Hospitality, Food Management and Tourism at the University of Guelph.

The European Union created a digital certificatefor residents in the 27-nation bloc, but there are restrictions on non-essential travel from many third countries due to COVID-19 concerns.

The various border crossing restrictions and travel restrictions imposed by nations around the world after COVID-19 have left airlines and passengers alike facing the resulting insecurity.

And while more people are flying abroad today than in the early days of the pandemic, passenger levels are still well below pre-pandemic levels.

A long way from 2019

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has reported that the world saw a drop of 60 percent in the number of passengers who flew in 2020 compared to 2019.

In July 2021, the demand for international travel was down nearly three-quarters of what it was in 2019 though IATA says traffic is improving across the globe.

A sign displayed at Regina International Airport in May 2021 reminds people coming from abroad of the rules that were in force at the time amid the concerns of COVID-19. (Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press)

In Canada, there is hope among airlines their industry will see clearer skies ahead, although the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult to predict exactly when.

At Air Canada, there is optimism now that the new travel rules allow international visitors at least those who are fully vaccinated to enter the country for non-essential travel. The change took effect on September 7th.

“We look forward to welcoming customers from all over the world back on board,” Peter Fitzpatrick, an airline spokesman, told CBC News via email.

Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesman, says the airline has seen huge revenue declines during the pandemic on the international side of its business. (Nathan Denette / Canadian Press)

Fitzpatrick said the airline has seen a sharp drop in revenue during the pandemic on the international side of its business with its international passenger revenue less than a tenth of what it was just two years ago in the second quarter of 2021.

WestJet told CBC News that it is “working diligently to anticipate the balance in demand and to support the needs of our guests” as vaccination rates rise and travel restrictions are eased.

“To get where we need to go, there will be an ongoing focus on the safe resumption of travel,” WestJet spokesman Morgan Bell said in an email.

Montreal-based Air Transatis also hopes to get more people on the planesas he did not make any commercial flights for six monthsearlier this year.

The Air Transat self-service control kiosks are seen at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Montreal on July 31, 2020. The company spent six months without operating commercial flights this year. (Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press)

“We are very pleased to have been able to resume operations and move on to the resumption phase, where our activities can gradually expand,” said Air Transat president and CEO Annick Gurard in a statement accompanying the publication of the company’s latest resultswith

“Especially as we look forward to a winter season that promises to be much busier than the last one.”

However, the airline does not expect its operations to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023.

Toronto-based Porter Airlines is preparing to resume service in four U.S. cities later this month after a long flight suspension due to pandemic-related restrictions. The company expects its flights to reach 60 percent of its 2019 capacity by early October. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

Toronto-based Porter Airlines is preparing to resume service in four U.S. cities later this month after an 18-month flight suspension.

“We believe that demand for these routes will gradually return as flights reintroduce across our network,” Porter spokesman Brad Cicero told CBC News by email.

“Flights are returning in stages, increasing to approximately 60 percent of 2019 capacity by October 6.”

How to move forward

The use of vaccine passports is a potential tool to encourage international travel.

Said the federal government he “acknowledges that evidence of vaccination credentials will support the reopening of societies and economies”.

Joseph Ali, associate director of global programs at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute for Baltimore Bioethics, believes support for such vaccine documentation is growing even though it may not be “strictly required” for all travelers in the near future.

A worker expects arrivals at the COVID-19 testing center at Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson Airport in February 2021. Some experts believe the implementation of vaccine passports will encourage international travel. (Frank Gunn / Canadian Press)

“Until there is sufficient supply and distribution of vaccines globally, it will not be appropriate to require vaccination passports for all travelers,” Ali said in an email.

Such a system will also depend on nations recognizing vaccines used outside their borders, as well as on the evolving circumstances of the pandemic.

“Vaccine passport systems will not ultimately solve all the COVID-related travel challenges, but they can help us get closer to doing the things that are important to many people,” Ali said.

In Ottawa?

The federal government of Canada, before the election call, argued for such a system of vaccination certification documentation for international travel, with the government announcing plans to offer a version by early fall.

Each federal party has its own idea of ​​how to safely reopen for international travel.

The federal government of Canada, before the election call, made arguments for such a system of vaccination certification documentation for international travel. Each side has different plans for the reopening of the sky. (Lars Hagberg / Reuters)

The Conservatives, according to their platform, would require “rapid testing at all border entry points and airports” for all passengers, vaccinated and unvaccinated, without exception. The party says it also aims to help rebuild the country’s airline sector.

Liberals, meanwhile, say travelers would do must be vaccinated if they want to board a commercial flightwith

The New Democrats told CBC News that LeaderJagmeet Singh supports Canada in developing a national vaccine passport that enables travel through Canada and beyond.

The Greens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A British Airways captain walks through the International Arrivals area of ​​Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport last month. Coordinating passport systems between nations will be crucial to the plan’s success, some travel experts say. (Peter Nicholls / Reuters)

Arvind Magesan, a professor of economics at the University of Calgary, said it was necessary to coordinate nations for vaccine passports for obvious reasons, as “it makes no sense to board a plane” if your vaccine is not recognized by where you are. trying to fly to.

“This is a really difficult problem, trying to coordinate politics in different countries,” Magesan said in an interview.

A different future?

Some observers think the pandemic could trigger permanent changes in air travel patterns.

The industry may have fewer business trips in the future, according to Marc-David Seidel, an associate professor in the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.

An airport airline limousine driver greets customers at an almost empty Toronto Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto in April last year. Some people believe that business travel will not return to pre-pandemic levels. (Nathan Denette / Canadian Press)

Seidel said people are used to using technology to do business in new ways and the benefits of not having to travel are clear to them.

“Do I really want to fly around the world to have a four-hour meeting?” said Seidel, which is the current moment as an opportunity to rethink what kind of travel is really needed.

Guelph’s Joppe University, on the other hand, believes business trips will eventually recover.

“People love to travel and our whole way of life has become mobility,” Joppe said.

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