Capital A calls for further relaxation of restrictions to stimulate air travel, support economic recovery

Capital A calls for further relaxation of restrictions to stimulate air travel, support economic recovery
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KUALA LUMPUR (April 18): As countries continued to reopen following high vaccination rates, senior executives at Capital A Bhd, the holding company for AirAsia Aviation Group, called on governments across Asia to further ease travel restrictions in order to revive the global economy.

In a statement on Monday (April 18), the company said Covid-19 tests required by many countries in Asia, which cost more than some of its airfares, made the overall cost of air travel burdensome for most of the ordinary travellers that it serves.

“We thank the governments in Asean which are finally reopening borders. This is a great first step to revive economic growth.

"With a high percentage of people in Asean fully vaccinated, we believe that it is time to review the onerous deterrents still stifling air travel, including the numerous testing requirements both pre-departure and on arrival, additional paperwork and costly Covid travel insurance,” said Capital A president, commercial, Colin Currie.

According to him, tourism is a major economic contributor and a lifeline for many countries in Asean and beyond.

He said that for Asean as a whole, the tourism sector accounts for 13% of the grouping’s aggregate gross domestic product (GDP), and 6% of total employment. Revival of the tourism sector is thus pivotal to supporting the livelihood of the people.  

“The majority of the world is now fully vaccinated and a sizeable portion has also received booster shots. Data in the region also shows that the chance of hospitalisation from Covid-19 for those fully vaccinated is very small,” he added.

Meanwhile, AirAsia Aviation Group group chief executive officer Bo Lingam said it was a sad fact that some of the group’s airfares cost less than the Covid-19 tests required by many countries in Asia, making the overall cost of air travel burdensome for most of the ordinary travellers that it serves.

The testing requirements, including the number and type of tests involved, should constantly be reviewed to ensure that they remain relevant, without burdening travellers or compromising public health, he said.

He noted another key issue faced by air travellers is the additional paperwork and various, unstandardised entry applications required by different countries.

These too should be urgently reviewed as the current processes tend to be duplicative and cause confusion amongst travellers, he added.

“This is on top of the superfluous Covid-19 travel insurance requirement still imposed by many countries and we would like to applaud Singapore, Cambodia, Australia and India for leading the way by doing away with this requirement in order to draw more visitors to their respective countries,” he said.

He said he is also very pleased that countries like Cambodia and India have completely removed testing requirements and reduced paperwork for entry applications, while travellers to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia and the Philippines are only required to undertake one Covid-19 test, either pre-departure or on-arrival.

According to him, Malaysia is the only country in Asean that is still requiring two tests, both pre-departure and on-arrival, which he called on the government to urgently review.

“The global recovery in air travel is very much underway. We are happy to note that many countries are already making the journey easier and more tourist-friendly. Countries that persist in trying to lock out the disease instead of managing it, as we do for other diseases, face the risk of missing out on significant economic benefits,” he said.

He said that AirAsia continues to play its part in the revival by looking at ways to make air travel as affordable and hassle-free as possible for its guests, including fully contactless procedures at airports and in the air.

According to him, the group last week announced a partnership with leading local provider Medijaya, to provide more affordable and convenient testing facilities in Malaysia which it hopes to roll out similarly in other destinations soon.

“We will continue to work closely with respective governments, regulators and industry partners across Asia and the Pacific as we work together to reduce the friction of air travel in order to stimulate demand and help revive the economy as a whole,” he said.

At 11.51am Monday, Capital A dropped 0.5 sen or 0.71% to 70 sen, valuing the group at RM2.93 billion.

Year to date, the counter has tumbled 13.58%.

Surin Murugiah