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Airlines urge government to shut down Songkran travel to curb virus spread

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PHOTO: Olivier Hoarau on Flickr

“Travel restrictions won’t be good for airlines, but in the meantime, we should prioritise long-term benefits instead of short-term revenue.”

Thailand’s aviation sector is nervous, amid rising cases of Covid-19 and confirmation that the highly-contagious UK variant has reached the Kingdom. Airlines are calling on the government to introduce travel restrictions now, admitting that while this will hurt in the short-term, it will prevent further decimation of the tourism industry in the long run.

Tassapon Bijleveld from Asia Aviation, the largest shareholder in Thai AirAsia, is concerned about significant inter-provincial travel over the Songkran holiday next week. He is calling for the government to act now to stop the mass exodus before it starts.

“There won’t be a third wave if the government can stop it earlier. It should consider imposing strict travel restrictions. Even though the tourism industry may lose lucrative income, we have to accept it if that would be benefit the whole country. That would be better than facing another nationwide lockdown afterwards.”

According to a Bangkok Post report, Tassapon says the indications so far are that most Thai AirAsia passengers have no plans to cancel their upcoming trips. The average load factor over the holiday period is expected to reach 80 – 85%, with all furloughed staff at the airline being summoned back to work. He says the number of people planning to travel will make it particularly difficult for the government to control the virus this time round.

Nuntaporn Komonsittivate from Thai Lion Air echoes this sentiment, saying it would be reasonable to introduce travel restrictions due to the difficulty in controlling the virus otherwise. She adds that it would be a case of short-term pain for long-term gain.

“Travel restrictions won’t be good for airlines, but in the meantime, we should prioritise long-term benefits instead of short-term revenue.”

Yesterday, the government’s Covid-19 task force confirmed there would be no nationwide lockdown over Songkran, adding that each province could introduce its own restrictions and quarantine measures. In addition, pubs, clubs and other entertainment venues in 41 provinces are to be closed from today for a period of two weeks.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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