Thursday 13 August 2020 - 1:37:29 am

IATA outlines layered approach for industry re-start


GENEVA, 20th May, 2020 (WAM) -- The International Air Transport Association, IATA, has revealed details of its proposed temporary layered approach to biosecurity for re-starting passenger flights amid the COVID-19 crisis.

In a statement released by the association on Wednesday, the IATA said it has published 'Biosecurity for Air Transport: A Roadmap for Restarting Aviation', 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," the statement read.

"There is no single measure that will reduce risk and enable a safe re-start of flying. But a 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.

Pre-flight, the IATA said it 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 programmes.

At the departure airport, the IATA said it foresees several layers of protective measures as access to the terminal building should be restricted to airport or airline workers and travellers (with exceptions being made for those accompanying passengers with disabilities or unaccompanied minors). It also noted temperature screening by trained government staff at entry points to the terminal building, physical distancing through all passenger processes, including queue management, and the use of face coverings for passengers and masks for staff in line with local regulations.

Other protective measures listed by the association include 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," IATA noted, adding that cleaning and sanitisation of high touch areas in line with local regulations as another protective measure that also includes wide availability of hand sanitisers.

In-flight, the IATA foresees several layers of protective measures which are 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, and enhanced and more frequent deep cleaning of the cabin At the arrival airport, the association said it foresees several layers of protective measures, including 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 tack record by some governments); accelerated processing and baggage reclaim to enable social distancing by reducing congestion and queuing, and health declarations and robust contact tracing are expected to be undertaken by governments to reduce the risk of imported chains of transmission The IATA also stressed that these measures should be temporary, regularly reviewed, replaced when more efficient options are identified or removed should they become unnecessary. Specifically, the IATA expressed hope in two areas which could be ‘game-changers’ in facilitating efficient travel until a vaccine is found.

Firstly, is COVID-19 testing. The IATA said it 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 travelers and governments.

Secondly, is immunity passports. The IATA said it would support the development of immunity passports to segregate no-risk travellers, at a time when these are backed by medical science and recognized by governments.

The agency went on to reiterate its opposition to social distancing on board aircraft and quarantine measures on arrival, saying quarantine measures are obviated by the combination of temperature checks and contract tracing. "Temperature screening reduces the risk of symptomatic passengers from traveling, while health declarations and contact tracing after arrival reduce the risk of imported cases developing into local chains of transmission," it explained.

"Social distancing on board (leaving the middle seat open) is obviated by the wearing of face coverings by all on board on top of transmission reducing characteristics of the cabin (everybody is front facing, air flow is from ceiling to floor, seats provide a barrier to forward/aft transmission, and air filtration systems that operate to hospital operating theatre standards)," it added.

The mutual recognition of globally agreed measures is critical for the resumption of international travel, the association stressed.

The IATA said that it is reaching out to governments with the Roadmap and that this engagement is in support of the COVID-19 Aviation Recovery Task Force, CART, of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, which is tasked with developing the global standards needed for the safe re-start of aviation.

"The Roadmap is the industry’s high-level thinking on safely re-starting aviation. Timing is critical. Governments understand the importance of aviation to the social and economic recovery of their countries and many are planning a phased re-opening of borders in the coming months. We have a short time to reach agreement on the initial standards to support safely reconnecting the world and to firmly establish that global standards are essential to success. This will change as technology and medical science advances. The vital element is coordination. If we don’t take these first steps in a harmonised way, we will spend many painful years recovering ground that should not have been lost," concluded de Juniac.

WAM/Rasha Abubaker/Nour Salman