The head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is warning about the consequences of not loosening current air travel restrictions, saying that current rules could become economically disastrous for most countries.

“There will be a major shrinkage in the footprint of aviation,” Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO at the IATA, said in a television interview with BNN Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman Tuesday.

He added that airlines will be forced to, or have already started to, restructure their businesses and could potentially collapse if travel restrictions remain as they are, and that the inevitable lack of connectivity between countries could hurt the global economy.

“The longer the border closure lasts or travel restrictions are in place, the worse it is for the economy — in Canada and the rest of the world,” he said.

As a result, the association is asking governments around the world for regulatory flexibility, increased financial support and for the reopening of more borders in order to help boost air traffic.

“The key issue is to convince [governments] to adopt a risk-based approach,” de Juniac said.

He added that there will have to be a balance between borders reopening and ensuring that health and safety is not compromised.

One of the main concepts the IATA is encouraging is a testing system that would reduce or eliminate the need for all travellers to quarantine for 14 days.

Just last week, Air Canada and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) launched a new COVID-19 testing initiative aimed at determining the practicality of testing passengers for the virus when they enter Canada, instead of requiring them to quarantine for 14 days. The move, if implemented, could lead to more people wanting to travel internationally. 

The IATA does not see global passenger traffic returning to pre-COVID levels until 2024.