It has been 10 months since the spread of Covid-19 globally and the situation still seems bleak, affecting different business, especially the aviation and air travel business. While the world was witnessing a slow recovery of the aviation industry in the last few months, with the increase of COVID-19 cases even greater than at the beginning of the crisis, nations have once again established restrictions in order to contain the advance of the pandemic. What was supposed to be the beginning of a recovery phase has been paralyzed again, maintaining the aviation crisis at unprecedented levels.
International aviation entities, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), are working hard to provide materials, resources and guidance on how the aviation industry should behave during the resumption of business activities. Moreover, at the same time promoting measures so that aviation is not a means by which the virus continues to spread rampant throughout the world while a vaccine is still being developed.
The CART, or Council Aviation Recovery Task Force, is an ICAO initiative supported by IATA which aligns the main initiatives involved in a global plan for the aviation industry recovery. An initiative with the basic principles in incorporating the new aviation precautions and measurements in addition to the many safety and security requirements already demanded for the sector. This means that that all additional procedures must continuously ensure the safety and security standards in the aviation industry, and still be sustainable.
The IATA website provides a large package of information and guidelines to support airlines and air transport professionals with a vast amount of information so that the resumption of aviation activities is in line with health needs in order to prevent the spread of COVID- 19 yet still ensuring that the aviation standards requirements are met. For example, the home page brings an updated overview of the impacts in the aviation as show in the figure below:
The above information alone is quite worrying and explains why many companies in the aviation industry are cutting jobs and putting people on furlough. This guidelines or recommendations are divided in six main areas and this is what IATA expects from the various aviation stakeholders to take into account when resuming activities.
- Firstly, IATA supports the ICAO guide through the CART as temporary measures to be adopted as long as the pandemic persists, and it also establishes additional measures aimed at its main focus, which are airlines and their interactions with the airport, aircraft, crew and cargo. All additional measures aimed exclusively at prevention so that aviation professionals and users are more protected against the virus, aiming at safer aviation protocols even in this most critical moment that we all live in. In this section IATA concurs with ICAO recommendations and also establish additional ones for the same areas making the measures more complete and safer.
- IATA recommends the different papers during the COVID-19 situation, establishing for example the need to reopen border and perform rapid testing and without the need for quarantine, and suggests that governments are responsible for reopening borders, ensuring rapid testing of COVID-19 and eliminating the need for quarantines. It suggests that rapid tests be carried out before departure and that quarantine for all negative cases should not exist. In this vein, it recommends that ICAO develop and create harmonized requirements for the testing and release of passengers and that these tests be accepted everywhere. IATA’s research state that the need for quarantine has the same effect of simply banning the all air travel activities and for this reason recommends the government to provide alternatives allowing the air travels without quarantine requirements.
- IATA keeps an interactive link with the different Government Measures and air travel restrictions in the different countries and provides the necessary information for those persons that need to travel to each location. It is impressive how each government determines different actions and requirements for the same crisis, for example, mandatory COVID-19 tests before departure or mandatory self-quarantine in the destination. As such, IATA and ICAO has the papers to support all nations and try to establish an harmonized package of recommendations, guidance and requirements to stimulate the aviation industry and at the same time assure that this air travel will not be responsible for the pandemic crises.
- IATA provides additional guidance in the different operations as maintenance, airworthiness and others. IATA continuously provides recommendations so the aviation industry can take actions and precautions for the continuous operations in the middle of the current pandemic crises, without affecting all the requirements already established by the aviation authorities.
- IATA keeps updated the impact in the industry worldwide and the trends and actions in progress in the aviation industry. As an example, IATA demonstrates that the recovery in September slowed down, given that new restrictions were imposed with the increase in the cases of COVID-19 mainly in Europe, but that the cargo sector continues to rise with good performance, as illustrates in the following chart:
Another interesting example is the chart below showing passenger volumes in 4 big economies and that the impact of the COVID-19 is still very high in the USA and JAPAN:
- Finally, IATA promotes and provides different communication resources to support and encourage the industry and governments to support the recovery of the aviation industry. IATA provides a series of information, including videos and animations trying to promote information that air transport does not make the risks greater compared to other everyday situations and quite the opposite, being in many cases much safer than many other daily situations, such as schools, work and family life.
It is a very comprehensive guide, if followed reasonably by the entire industry and with the proper support of governments, can guarantee a more harmonious resumption of aviation and ensure that COVID-19 transmissions will not increase due to air travel activities.
Unfortunately, for aviation, what it is still happening is that each government is taking individual measurements considered necessary and not aimed at the good of aviation or other business that ensures that the world remains strong and that the world economy starts its journey towards a better future. Still, many people also do not feel comfortable facing an airplane trip at the present time, believing that the exposure in an airport and inside the airplane are greater than anywhere else, which is in fact what governments imply, when they put a series of restrictions on air travel.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to judge such a situation since this pandemic, even after several months, is still something never experienced by humanity and the world is still learning how to deal with it. This means that neither governments nor international aviation authorities are all right or wrong. As time goes on, hopefully common actions can be aligned between the aviation authorities and governments, thus ensuring the long-awaited resumption of activities to the air sector and preventing the increase of COVID-19 cases.