No one could have imagined the situation we found ourselves in this year as countries locked down at different times, travel and flight restrictions often changed on a daily basis, entry requirements and health screening requirements were different from country to country… so, everything we knew about flight planning, permit applications, and immigration regulations changed in a matter of moments. Yet, emergency medical supplies were in critical demand worldwide and countries still needed to import essentials. So, we found ways to adapt to keep cargo moving and to repatriate people to their home countries.
For Asia, the biggest challenge for operators was the fragmented nature of the region. Over 4 billion people living in a region with no common economic or political area, and therefore no standardization of regulations. Pandemic control is being handled very differently by each country so there isn’t any joint action plan – every country is implementing its own rules. This has led to a situation where departure and destination countries often have very conflicting requirements regarding immigration, crew restrictions, night stops, etc., and this is making business travel almost impossible and operators in Asia are dealing with issues that don’t exist in the United States or the EU because they have open travel policies.
As we go forward into recovery, it’s important to consider all of these challenges and work with decision-makers to eradicate them. We must advocate for the establishment of a Regional Task Force to work on unified aviation regulations or guidelines to facilitate smooth air operations in line with the different country restrictions and respectful of their individuality. Why? Because the only solution for our industry is to get more standardization. Only a joint approach within a region will help to make business travel possible and keep the pandemic under control. I believe there needs to be a blueprint to keep the borders open during a similar situation in the future. Aviation organizations are calling for COVID-19-free public health corridors to address the very problem of disjointed regulations from country to country. This could make all the difference, and I am certain that we will find a way to work excellently together to ensure this industry’s recovery and ultimately, growth.
I was delighted to be able to share these thoughts at CJI Asia this week. Let’s hope that the spirit of cooperation between industry experts inspires more coordination between countries.
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