For all the years I have been working in aviation, I cannot recall another time when the industry introduced similar methods to those like the “air transport bubbles” in order to keep the sector alive. Some way along the corona episode, this tactic was a response to the pandemic. It was an attempt to restart commercial passenger services after the suspension of international flights. In fact, looking back on the recent events, the first air travel bubble was the one between Hong-Kong and Singapore, initiated past November.
For those who are not familiar with air transport bubbles, these are “corridors” of travel, temporary arranged between two countries. Importantly, the bubbles are reciprocal in nature, which means that airlines from both countries share the same benefits as well as restrictions. As expected and considering the circumstances, airlines have permission to carry passengers only between the two countries immersed in a particular agreement.
However, air transport bubbles are not easy to manage. Any travel between foreign places requires passengers to fulfil certain preconditions including specific paperwork, tests or other stipulations. In addition, it can be hard to persuade people to travel after losing their confidence and enthusiasm in overseas trips. On a similar note, to operate in a bubble is very problematic as agencies, airports and airlines find themselves with reduced workforce and limited resources while domestic markets offer close to nothing in terms of traffic. To conclude on the subject of glitches, enforcement and policing of such agreements entails numerous tests for authorities as these bubbles contain in their structure different loopholes.
Nevertheless, despite any difficulties and challenges the corridors offer few favourable leads. For one, they provide hope in people’s hearts. Hope is an optimistic state so it raises people’s trust for the future and this must be good for now. For another, allows markets and economies to tick again and this must be a positive step forward for all. Finally, better to have some routes operating than having a very devastated aviation industry.
Bubbles provide a degree of flexibility and adaptability
These exclusive agreements between countries offer a small gleaming light at the end of the tunnel. For me, metaphorically speaking, air transport bubbles are comparable to a life-support machine desperately trying to keep alive a patient who is in deep coma. In any case, they do provide a degree of flexibility and adaptability thus; allow organized enterprises to develop between markets. It is important that everyone understands though as IATA pointed out on their publication Restarting International Aviation through ‘Travel Bubbles’, the bubbles do not intend to favour any States or specific organizations. In my opinion, we have to look at these arrangements with optimism. The international community should welcome any encouraging feature, which brings with it some hope for speedy revival of aviation. Nonetheless, at the same time, it will be wise to consider the whole situation with some scepticism and to remain cautious as we explore the different solutions.