Amman: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airports Council International (ACI) Asia-Pacific are joining the International Civil Aviation Organization Middle East (ICAO MID) in urging the governments in the Middle East region to rapidly implement ICAO’s global guidelines for restoring air connectivity to ensure the safe and harmonised restart of aviation in the region. These guidelines are contained in Takeoff: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis, which was approved by the ICAO Council on 1 June 2020.
“The key principles, recommendations and guidelines of CART Report and Take-off Document, provide governments with a framework for restarting aviation while protecting public health; and are intended to inform and align the COVID-19 recovery roadmaps established by States or industry. Governments and industry stakeholders can have certainty as they take action to get the world flying again,” said ICAO’s Acting Regional Director for the Middle East, Mohamed Smaoui.
“The guidance recognizes that social distancing is not possible on an aircraft, therefore supports face coverings as part of a layered risk mitigation approach. And recommends contact tracing which should give governments the confidence to open borders without quarantine measures. Local deviations and exceptions will damage public confidence and make it harder to operate effectively slowing down the industry restart. This would be harmful to public health and the economic recovery,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.
“We urge the Middle East states to swiftly implement the guidelines so we can ensure truly harmonised and effective measures across the region. States should continuously readjust the measures depending on their effectiveness to reduce the risk of transmission and scalability, especially as soon as traffic ramps up again to certain volumes of traffic. Airports need health authorities to work cooperatively with them to adapt physical distancing to specific layout and operations," said Stefano Baronci, Director General, ACI Asia-Pacific.
Airlines in the region are expected to post a net loss of US$4.8 billion this year as passenger revenues decline by US$24 billion compared to the previous year. Airports in the region estimated total revenue loss of US$7billion, representing a 52% year-on-year decline in 2020. Job losses in aviation and related industries in the region could reach 1.2 million and GDP supported by aviation could fall by US$66 billion. Before the COVID-19 crisis aviation supported 2.4 million jobs in the region and generated US$130 billion in GDP.
The ICAO Guidance measures include:
Physical distancing to the extent feasible
Wearing of face coverings and masks by passengers and aviation workers
Routine sanitation and disinfection of all areas with potential for human contact and transmission
Health screening, which could include pre- and post-flight self-declarations, as well as temperature screening and visual observation
Contact tracing for passengers and aviation employees
Passenger health declaration forms.
Testing: If and when real-time, rapid and reliable testing becomes available.