International air traffic is likely to remain sluggish in the short term as uncertainties about Omicron’s Covid variant persist, according to an aviation analyst.
Brendan Sobie, independent analyst at Sobie Aviation, said omicron has achieved passenger confidence in “travel right now because things are changing every day”.
“The recovery that we hoped would continue into the first half of next year is simply not going to happen. That will be a setback, “Sobie told CNBC’s” Squawk Box Asia “on Thursday. “Because we don’t know too much about this variant and we don’t know what’s coming up.”
While much is still unknown about Omicron, the World Health Organization warned that the variant spreads “significantly faster” than the delta strain and could change the course of the pandemic.
The highly infectious variant has now been detected in at least 89 countries and forced some governments to impose stricter containment measures during the holiday season.
On Wednesday Singapore said it would freeze new ticket sales for quarantine-free travel to limit the number of Omicron cases imported.
Singapore’s vaccinated itineraries program has been key to the hinge of the country’s “Living With Covid” strategy, and the latest move is dealing a significant blow to those efforts. Stocks of Singapore’s travel stocks like Singapore Airlines fell Wednesday after the announcement.
“Singapore Airlines will be hit by the setback in the VTLs,” noted Sobie.
He added that things are not moving in the right direction for Asia Pacific airlines which is “very disappointing”.
“It’s been such a difficult year for airlines in the Asia-Pacific region – a lot worse than expected,” said Sobie.
“It looked like it would get better. Unfortunately, it is only going in the opposite direction now.”