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Asia’s airlines treat passengers to more offers as tough Covid travel curbs ease

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Asia-Pacific airlines have lost billions of dollars this year, with jets stranded in the Covid-19 transport freeze. Now, as some of the world’s strictest pandemic travel rules start to ease, they are increasing flights and ticket deals.

Asian travel agencies and carriers told Reuters they are seeing an increase in bookings and travel requests as countries like Malaysia and Vietnam allow domestic flights to resume from this week after months of strict closures.

India lifts a domestic capacity cap, while Singapore, Thailand and Fiji are opening without quarantine to vaccinated international travelers from certain countries.

While airline industry group IATA does not expect a significant improvement in international travel to Asia-Pacific until the end of 2022, predicting cumulative losses of $ 11.2 billion this year, shrinking to $ 2.4 billion next year – AirAsia Group carriers at VietJet Aviation, Singapore Airlines, Fiji Airways and Qantas are already increasing capacity.

“The most important thing is that virtually all governments in the Asia-Pacific region, with one or two exceptions, are abandoning their Covid-zero strategies and moving to some sort of Covid-normal framework,” said the chief executive of Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, Subhas Menon. .

“Immunization rates are also starting to increase. “

As the borders soften, a full return to normal operations is still a long way off. IATA estimates that losses to the global aviation industry from the pandemic will amount to $ 200 billion for 2020-2022, and that losses in Asia alone will reach nearly $ 50 billion in 2020. International travel to the Asia-Pacific region was around 4% of 2019 levels in August.

And while the easing of restrictions paves the way for some tourism, it will initially mean a comparative net: Thailand is only expecting around 100,000 foreign visitors this year, up from nearly 40 million in 2019.

Still, there is pent-up demand from those who fancy being able to take a break abroad.

Dickson Ng, a 24-year-old Singapore-based consultant, said he plans to visit Europe in January.

“We don’t know if these VTL (vaccinated traffic lanes) could be canceled, right now there is an opportunity and there is Covid fatigue, so I think getting out of the country will be a good thing,” a he declared.

Meanwhile, Fiji Airways has recorded thousands of bookings since the country said on Sunday it would open its borders to vaccinated travelers from certain destinations on December 1, the vast majority of Australians, a spokesperson for the country said. airline company.

GOOD BUSINESS VS. PRICE INCREASES

Some carriers are already promoting advantageous fares.

Vietnamese low-cost airline VietJet offers free domestic one-way tickets, excluding taxes and fees, while Malaysian airline AirAsia offers fares as low as 12 ringgits ($ 2.88) as it ramps up flights.

AirAsia said traffic to its mobile app has increased by more than 140% since the government relaxed domestic travel rules.

But Singapore has capped the number of arrivals under its VTL program at 3,000 a day in total, a tiny fraction of pre-pandemic traffic – a move that has kept ticket prices higher.

Singaporean travel agency Chan Brothers Travel said inquiries had increased 50-fold last week since VTL was added in more countries, including South Korea, the United States and Britain. .

Round-trip economy fares from Singapore to South Korea have nearly doubled to around S $ 1,500 ($ 1,107.50) from S $ 800 previously, a spokesperson for Dynasty Travel in Singapore said.

“Some travelers may wait until the initial price spike for flights to pass, but we can expect a number of travelers to take off by the first half of 2022,” she said.

($ 1 = 4.1630 ringgits)

($ 1 = 1.3544 Singapore dollars)

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