Industry execs urge easing of curbs as Singapore airshow opens
Asian governments must ditch tough coronavirus travel restrictions to help beleaguered airlines recover, industry executives urged Tuesday on the opening day of the region's biggest airshow in Singapore.
Hundreds of carriers, manufacturers and other aviation executives have descended on the city-state for the four-day industry event that takes place every two years.
Top of the agenda is how to spur a recovery in a region where international travellers still face a gauntlet of tests and lengthy quarantines, and foreign tourists remain barred from many countries.
Bo Lingam, group CEO at AirAsia , one of the region's top budget carriers, said there was "pent-up demand" across the region.
"I think it's time to open up borders," he told a panel discussion, adding that many in the region were now fully vaccinated.
He called on Southeast Asia's regional bloc to work together to harmonise a chaotic patchwork of rules for travel across the 10-country region.
"You can't have different rules for entry for different countries," he said.
The region, home to tourist hotspots like Thailand and the Philippines, was long a favourite with international travellers but visitor numbers have collapsed due to border closures during the pandemic.
Captain Izham Ismail, group CEO of Malaysia Airlines, echoed the sentiment, saying current efforts to lift curbs were "disorderly".
"Governments and policymakers must really work together," he said.
The aviation sector's slow recovery in Asia stands in contrast to the fortunes of the industry in Europe and the United States, where curbs have been significantly eased and demand has rebounded strongly.
Despite the challenges, Domhnal Slattery, CEO of aircraft leasing company Avolon, was confident aviation in Asia would see a similar recovery.
"A lot of people have saved money for the last couple of years and they just want to spend that money and enjoy life," he said.
With Singapore facing a fierce Omicron virus wave, this year's airshow is a muted affair with about 600 companies taking part, down from more than 900 at the last edition in 2020.
Participants are required to take daily virus tests, while the public have been barred from attending a series of aerial displays as authorities look to cut infection risks, with the aerobatics being live-streamed instead.
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