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Transport minister: Malaysia to post 30-45pc recovery in air passenger traffic from pre-pandemic levels

For a smooth and full recovery, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong recommended that health protocols imposed for air travel must be consistent, simpler, and more predictable. – Picture by Hari Anggara

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SINGAPORE, May 17 — Malaysia’s air passenger traffic this year is forecast to increase between 197 per cent and 347 per cent year-on-year (YoY), representing between 32.6 million and 49 million passengers, according to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong.

These marked a 30 to 45 per cent recovery from the pre-pandemic air passenger traffic levels in 2019, he said in his opening statement at a panel discussion titled, “Reviving Aviation, Rebuilding Connections” at the Changi Aviation Summit 2022 (CAS 2022).

Wee is here at the invitation of the Singapore government.

On air cargo traffic for 2022, Wee said it is projected to grow between 3.9 per cent and 6.7 per cent YoY, which translates into 21.5 billion to 22 billion freight tonne kilometres, underpinned by the progress of vaccination programme, strong growth of e-commerce, as well as increased activities in international trade — imports and exports.

For a smooth and full recovery, Wee recommended that health protocols imposed for air travel must be consistent, simpler, and more predictable.

Some measures, he said, required further considerations, namely allowing vaccinated passengers to travel without additional measures; using pre-departure antigen tests for non-vaccinated passengers; and avoiding on-arrival testing.

Others included removing travel bans and accelerating the ease of travel restrictions in cognisance of the fact that travellers pose no greater risk of Covid-19 infection than what has already been in existence in the general population.

After delivering his opening statement, Wee joined the discussions with fellow panelists and speakers.

They were Indonesia’s Minister of Transport Budi Karya Sumadi, European Commission director-general for mobility and transport Henrik Hololei, Singapore Airlines chief executive officer (CEO) Goh Choon Phong, and Airports Company South Africa CEO Nompumelelo Z Mpofu.

Wee noted that the civil aviation sector must build confidence between governments, industry, and air travellers, as well as entities beyond the aviation sector such as health and immigration authorities.

“The removal of quarantine and onerous tests for Covid-19 certainly helps to raise confidence among travellers,” he said.

Malaysia, he said, has done well in keeping up with the engagements among the various aviation and health stakeholders on these issues so as to identify problems and devise solutions.

Eventually, he said Malaysia’s implementation of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) initiative with Singapore, Cambodia, and Thailand was a major part of their efforts to address travellers’ expectations and regain their confidence to travel by air.

“Moving forward, we must also pursue digitalisation and sustainability in airport and aviation operations as the key to building resilience in the civil aviation industry for the future,” said Wee.

Citing statistics, as at March 29, 2022 prior to the reopening of Malaysia’s borders, Wee revealed that out of a total of 115,646 passengers arriving in Malaysia under the VTL, only 7,923, or less than 7.0 per cent, were detected with Covid-19-positive cases upon arrival.

These statistics were vital in guiding the government’s decision to reopen Malaysia’s borders and further helped to build confidence and public support for Malaysia’s reopening to all international travellers on April 1, 2022.

The inaugural CAS 2022 gathers 300 global aviation leaders, policymakers, and senior executives from more than 45 countries. — Bernama

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