Last Updated on Thursday, 16 December, 2021 at 10:26 am by Andre Camilleri
Dayna Camilleri Clarke speaks to ALAN BORG, CEO of Malta International Airport, about the prospects for demand now that Covid-19 travel restrictions are changing across Europe due to the new Omicron variant ahead of the ordinarily busy Christmas travel period. He explains routes have increased, but how haphazard and poorly-planned restrictions introduced at this stage, will have far-reaching repercussions within the travel sector.
When asked if airlines are reducing routes due to the variant, Borg stated: “During the peak holiday period, that is, between 22 December and 5 January, circa 246,000 seats will be available on flights operated on 87 routes between MIA and 32 different markets. This means that 85% of the routes and markets, which were available in 2019, have been recovered. Moreover, compared to 2019, seven of these connections – Trapani, Cagliari, Lourdes, Genoa, Parma, Brindisi and Zagreb – are new. While the majority of these routes are in Italy, which is one of MIA’s most popular and well-connected markets, the Zagreb route has established the first direct scheduled connection between Malta and Croatia as well as strengthened connectivity with the Balkan Peninsula.
On the subject of how restrictions are currently affecting travel because of the new variant, Borg replied: “A number of countries, such as Belgium and Switzerland, which are connected to Malta through direct flights have tightened their entry requirements in recent days. However, most countries, including our top markets France, Germany, Spain and Poland are still accepting the EU Digital Covid Certificate, proof of vaccination or proof of recovery from infection and a negative Covid-19 test from persons who are not vaccinated as valid entry documents, without the need to observe quarantine or get tested again when entering the country. This week we have also seen Austria lift a lockdown, which the country had entered in November, re-open to tourists once again.”
There’s no denying that the new Omicron variant and the added restrictions are a massive blow to all those involved in the travel industry and the ailing aviation sector. “As Malta International Airport has already warned, the introduction of more haphazard and overly burdesome restrictions in response to new virus variants, will deal a new blow to consumer confidence in the travel industry, which has started to recover gradually as indicated by our traffic results for the past few months. Low consumer confidence would not only impact travel during the important holiday season, but also have far-reaching effects into 2022,” explained Borg.