Skip to main content

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, takes part in a panel discussion, in Boston, Mass., on Oct. 5.BRIAN SNYDER/Reuters

Global airlines blasted governments on Wednesday for worsening the Omicron scare through snap border measures and “rip-off” virus testing regimes, and urged politicians to let travellers make their own decisions based on scientific data.

Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, predicted “knee-jerk” border restrictions resulting from the coronavirus variant would ease soon, but it was too early to say whether holiday travel would be disrupted.

The Omicron COVID-19 variant has sparked global concern and prompted new travel restrictions. Here’s everything you need to know

“We can’t shut down everything when a new variant appears,” Mr. Walsh told a news briefing, adding hasty travel bans had penalized countries such as South Africa for reporting findings.

However, he predicted the latest health emergency would be short-lived and said it would not affect IATA forecasts, which predict a return of air travel to precrisis levels from 2024.

Mr. Walsh said competition authorities should investigate the prices charged for COVID-19 tests, which in some cases bore no relation to their true cost.

Britain’s competition watchdog said in August it would help the government take action against COVID-19 testing companies if it found they were breaching consumer law, amid concerns about the price and reliability of PCR travel tests in the country.

“I hope governments and competition regulators step in and stop consumers being ripped off,” Mr. Walsh said. “I do think we need to understand how that has happened and where all the money [has] gone.”

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.