The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed details of its proposed temporary layered approach to biosecurity for restarting passenger flights amid the COVID-19 crisis. The Association also announced a commitment by the airline CEOs on its Board of Governors to five principles for reconnecting the world by air transport.
IATA has published Biosecurity for Air Transport: A Roadmap for Restarting Aviation (pdf) which outlines IATA’s proposal for a layering of temporary biosecurity measures. The roadmap aims to provide the confidence that governments will need to enable the re-opening of borders to passenger travel; and the confidence that travellers will need to return to flying.
“There is no single measure that will reduce risk and enable a safe re-start of flying. But layering measures that are globally implemented and mutually recognized by governments can achieve the needed outcome. This is the greatest crisis that aviation has ever faced. A layered approach has worked with safety and with security. It’s the way forward for biosecurity as well,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.
Important notes from the roadmap include:
Pre-flight, IATA foresees the need for governments to collect passenger data in advance of travel, including health information, which should be accomplished using well-tested channels such as those used for eVisa or electronic travel authorisation programs.
At the departure airport, IATA foresees several layers of protective measures:
- Access to the terminal building should be restricted to airport/airline workers and travellers (with exceptions being made for those accompanying passengers with disabilities or unaccompanied minors)
- Temperature screening by trained government staff at entry points to the terminal building
- Physical distancing through all passenger processes, including queue management
- Use of face coverings for passengers and masks for staff in line with local regulations
- Self-service options for check-in used by passengers as much as possible to reduce contact points and queues. This includes remote check-in (electronic / home printed boarding passes), automated bag drops (with home printed bag tags) and self-boarding
- Boarding should be made as efficient as possible with re-designed gate areas, congestion-reducing boarding priorities, and hand luggage limitations
- Cleaning and sanitisation of high touch areas in line with local regulations. This includes wide availability of hand sanitizer
In- flight, IATA foresees several layers of protective measures:
- Face coverings required for all passengers and non-surgical masks for crew
- Simplified cabin service and pre-packaged catering to reduce interaction between passengers and crew
- Reduced congregation of passengers in the cabin, for example by prohibiting queues for washrooms.
- Enhanced and more frequent deep cleaning of the cabin
At the arrival airport, IATA foresees several layers of protective measures:
- Temperature screening by trained government staff if required by authorities
- Automated procedures for customs and border control including use of mobile applications and biometric technologies (which have already proven track record by some governments)
- Accelerated processing and baggage reclaim to enable social distancing by reducing congestion and queuing
- Health declarations and robust contact tracing are expected to be undertaken by governments to reduce the risk of imported chains of transmission
IATA stressed that these measures should be temporary, regularly reviewed, replaced when more efficient options are identified or removed should they become unnecessary. Specifically, IATA expressed hope in two areas which could be ‘game-changers’ in facilitating efficient travel until a vaccine is found.
COVID-19 testing: IATA supports testing when scalable, accurate and fast results are available. Testing at the start of the travel process would create a ‘sterile’ travel environment that would reassure travellers and governments.
Immunity passports: IATA would support the development of immunity passports to segregate no-risk travellers, at a time when these are backed by medical science and recognised by governments.
The five principles IATA has committed itself to in reconnecting the world are as follows:
1. Aviation will always put safety and security first: Airlines commit to working with partners in governments, institutions and across the industry to:
- Implement a science-based biosecurity regime that will keep passengers and crew safe while enabling efficient operations.
- Ensure that aviation is not a meaningful source for the spread of communicable diseases, including COVID-19.
2. Aviation will respond flexibly as the crisis and science evolve: Airlines commit to working with partners in governments, institutions and across the industry to:
- Utilise new science and technology as it becomes available, for example, reliable, scalable and efficient solutions for COVID-19 testing or immunity passports.
- Develop a predictable and effective approach to managing any future border closures or mobility restrictions.
- Ensure that measures are scientifically supported, economically sustainable, operationally viable, continuously reviewed, and removed/replaced when no longer necessary.
3. Aviation will be a key driver of the economic recovery: Airlines commit to working with partners in governments, institutions and across the industry to:
- Re-establish capacity that can meet the demands of the economic recovery as quickly as possible.
- Ensure that affordable air transport will be available in the post-pandemic period.
4. Aviation will meet its environment targets: Airlines commit to working with partners in governments, institutions and across the industry to:
- Achieving the long-term goal of cutting net carbon emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050.
- Successfully implementing the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
5. Aviation will operate to global standards which are harmonised and mutually recognised by governments: Airlines commit to working with partners in governments, institutions and across the industry to:
- Establish the global standards necessary for an effective re-start of aviation, particularly drawing on strong partnerships with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Ensure that agreed measures are effectively implemented and mutually recognised by governments.
“Re-starting air transport is important. Even as the pandemic continues, the foundations for an industry re-start are being laid through close collaboration of the air transport industry with ICAO, the WHO, individual governments and other parties. Much work, however, remains to be done. By committing to these principles, the leaders of the world’s airlines will guide the safe, responsible and sustainable re-start of our vital economic sector. Flying is our business. And it is everyone’s shared freedom,” said Alexandre de Juniac.