Calling aviation “a key driver of the economic recovery,” Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), vowed that “aviation will always put safety and security first” in unveiling aproposed, temporary, layered approach to biosecurity for re-starting passenger flights amid the COVID-19 crisis. He urgedairlines to work with governments, institutions and across the industry to implement “a science-based biosecurity regime that will keep our passengers and crew safe while enabling efficient operations.”

De Juniac said, “We hope that it will send a strong message to governments that they must also work together. COVID-19 is a global health crisis and a global economic crisis. Aviation is the crossroads of both. The re-start will go much more smoothly if governments cooperate. We must avoid the mess that followed 9/11 when governments acted unilaterally. This created confusion for airlines and travelers alike. And it took many years to clean-up. We have a small window to avoid these mistakes with COVID-19 by agreeing global standards for a re-start.”

The IATA document, “Biosecurity for Air Transport: A Roadmap for Restarting Aviation,” offers recommendations for the pre-flight, departure airport, in flight, and arriving airport phases. For example, IATA foresees the need for governments to collect passenger data in advance of travel, including health information.

At the departure airport, protective measures might include restricting access to travelers and airport/airline workers, hand luggage limitations, temperature screening, face coverings, physical distancing and sanitisation of high-touch areas.

In-flight measures: face coverings, simplified cabin service to reduce interaction with cabin crew, prohibiting queues for lavatories, and deep cleaning between flights. (IATA reiterated its opposition to social distancing on board aircraft by not selling centre seats.)

At the arrival airport: temperature screening, automated procedures for border controls, social distancing in baggage claim, health declarations and contract tracing procedures. Such measures, IATA thinks, would obviate the need for quarantine measures after landing.

IATA supports COVID-19 testing “when scalable, accurate and fast results are available.”

The association “would support the development of immunity passports to segregate no-risk travelers, at a time when these are backed by medical science and recognized by governments.”

The IATA bio-roadmap is in support of the ICAO COVID-19 Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART), tasked with developing the global standards needed for the safe re-start of aviation.

“The vital element is coordination. If we don’t take these first steps in a harmonized way, we will spend many painful years recovering ground that should not have been lost,” said de Juniac.

Other information: Presentation by Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior VP Airport Passenger Cargo and Security:

Part of CAT Magazine's Restarting The Engines series.