UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Travel Bubbles in Air Transportation: Myth or Reality? Sun, Xiaoqian; Wandelt, Sebastian; Zhang, Anming


Aviation has been hit hard by COVID-19, with passengers stranded in remote destinations, airlines filing for bankruptcy, and uncertain demand scenarios for the future. Travel bubbles are discussed as one possible solution, meaning countries which have successfully constrained the spread of COVID-19 gradually increase their mutual international flights, returning to a degree of normality. This study aims to answer the question of whether travel bubbles are indeed observable in flight data for the year 2020. We take the year 2019 as reference and then search for anomalies in countries’ flight bans and recoveries, which could possibly be explained by having successfully implemented a travel bubble. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to try to address the identification of COVID-19 travel bubbles in real data. Our methodology and findings lead to several important insights regarding policy making, problems associated with the concept of travel bubbles, and raise interesting avenues for future research.

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CC BY 4.0