The return of Covid variant could spook aviation recovery
Business class may be safer than more densely packed economy cabins, said David Powell, physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association, which represents almost 300 carriers worldwide. As before, passengers should avoid face-to-face contact and surfaces that are frequently touched, and people sitting near to each other should try not to be unmasked at the same time during meals, he said.
The greatest protection is to be vaccinated and boosted. The protection that you give yourself from an extra mask or a different type of mask, or not flying at all, frankly, is probably less than the benefit you would get from just being fully boosted.
However, airline flights have been less conducive to spread than other indoor environments like restaurants, buses, subways, nightclubs, and gyms, all of those that have been studied. The likelihood of transferring to another person is less on an airplane.
Little wonder, the Ministry of Civil Aviation reported that only 2.4 lakh passengers flew domestically on January 9, 2022 which is a 38 percent drop in the number of passengers flying around the country as compared to just two weeks ago, in what has traditionally been a strong season for travel in India.
The number of flights operated has also reduced. On December 24, 2021, as many as 2,825 flights were being operated, the number reduced to 2,366 flights operated on January 8, 2022. A 17 percent drop has been witnessed in the number of flights operated.
Many Indian states are now reinstating requirements to present an RT-PCR test for arrivals. It is difficult as they are now unable to present a test report within 48-72 hours of departure as testing capacity is running full and it is hard to get a report in 8-12 hours like it was earlier. The requirement to test itself becomes a deterrent for some people who also fear turning positive and have to be quarantined at a great cost.
Regular commercial international flights will not resume till January 31, the government announced, amid a global alarm over the new Omicron variant of coronavirus. The ones under the "air bubble" agreements, however, will carry on as before. Much like the appearance of the Alpha variant of Covid-19 in late 2020 dashed prospects for a significant air traffic rebound in the coming year, the Omicron variant is doing the same as 2021 came to an end.
Recent developments indicate that Omicron will have a considerable short-term impact on airline finances when governments re-impose border restrictions and customers reassess their travel plans. In Asia, major markets that had been at the forefront of the region's openness, like Singapore and Thailand, have retreated.