Omicron: Effects on Air Travel

With the recent discovery of another variant of the coronavirus, called the Omicron, some countries again have started imposing travel bans to cut down on the rate of transmission.

This development is threatening the air travel gradual  recovery seen since the beginning of the lifting of the lockdown in 2020.

As the yuletide festivities is around the corner, what effect will this have on the movement of people this period?

The month of December every year is packed full with different activities because of the Christmas and new year holidays and it is also an opportunity for people to travel domestically and internationally.

It is a period airlines and tour operators look forward to making more sales and recover lost revenue of the previous months.

However, the emergence of the omicron variant of the coronavirus has panicked many government to imposing travel bans which the Director General, World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus says could hamper the sector’s recovery. 

“Blanket travel ban will not prevent the international spread of omicron and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”.

Mrs. Cecile Doumbe and Pelegie Egbane both tour operators say, they have been recording cancelations of bookings since the omicron was announced.

“With the new Variant sales are low and really scared, countries have started shutting down again, we are having a lot of cancelations. We have to start thinking about refund, contacting hotels, so whatever thought you have earned, you have actually not earned it”.

A tour consultant, Mrs. Sharon Asuquo and a travel coordinator, Mr. Bayo Adedeji say, since travel restrictions started outside of Africa, they have moved on to selling old and new destinations in the Africa continent. 

“We have the west Africa sales which is no visa, domestic internal, north Africa, east Africa and there is southern Africa. Our indices are showing that, people are traveling more, as one country shuts down Nigerians are opening up new countries, yes, demand is coming down but capacity is also going up”.

President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, NANTA, Mrs. Susan Akporiaye and a travel and tourism ambassador, Mr. Ikechi Uko say, regardless of travel restrictions Nigerians love traveling and would continue to travel.

“I don’t think it is going to affect our sales that much, the truth is that, the whole world is tired of the different stories” This is the initial crisis reaction and I think by next week things will settle but people will travel for Christmas even last year at the height of it, Christmas had a massive surge all over the world”.

Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO, Dr. Michael Ryan warned that health not political principles be selected to curtain the spread of the virus.

“There is also some inherent internal contradictions in these bans, we seen when you ban flights except for your citizens, is it that some passport holders will have the virus and some wouldn’t? Does the virus read your passports? Does the virus know your nationality or where you are legally resident?”.

The WHO has called on countries to adopt measures to De-risk travel with increased testing before departures and arrivals as well as quarantine until negative test instead of a blanket ban.

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