The boss of one of Asia’s biggest airlines has called on governments in the region to open their borders for the sake of people’s livelihoods.

“Politicians have to be brave,” AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes told the BBC.

Cross-border tourism, which accounted for 12% of South East Asia’s GDP in 2019, was hit hard by Covid-19 rules.

He was speaking at the Singapore Airshow, which returned this week to the city-state after two years of tough travel restrictions.

“It’s time to take a deep breath and assess the facts… Having borders closed isn’t logical anymore because Omicron is in society,” the Malaysian low-cost carrier’s chief executive said.

“Now we have to protect people’s livelihoods and economies,” he added.

Like most airlines around the world, AirAsia reported a massive loss in 2020. But while low-cost international carriers in Europe and North America enjoyed a rebound in 2021 as travel rules were relaxed, Asian airlines slumped even further.

Ireland’s Ryanair, for example, more than tripled its year-on-year revenue in the third quarter of 2021. In the same period, AirAsia’s dropped by a third.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Asia-Pacific was the only region in the world that failed to register any significant improvement in air traffic by the end of 2021. Read more