The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urgently calls on governments around the world to reopen their borders to travel. At its 76th Annual General Meeting (AGM), IATA members unanimously agreed to the proposal of systematic testing of international travellers for Covid-19 as a means of permitting the lifting of border restrictions, providing an alternative to the current quarantine rules that suppress demand for air travel.
The members warned that unless quarantines are lifted or reduced to stimulate demand for travel, as many as 46 million jobs supported by air travel could be lost, and the economic activity sustained by aviation could fall by US$1.8 trillion.
“People want and need global mobility. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Take-off measures make flying safe. But border closures, movement restrictions and quarantine measures make travel impossible for most,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “We must manage how we live with the virus. But that does not have to mean destroying aviation, risking millions of jobs, crippling economies and tearing apart the international social fabric. We could safely open borders today with systematic Covid-19 testing.”
At the AGM IATA also reaffirmed the industry’s commitment to implementing globally agreed biosafety protocols, and encouraged governments to implement the guidance developed by ICAO. The members also asked governments to ensure that aviation staff and international travellers are prioritised for Covid-19 vaccinations, once safe and effective treatments become available and health care workers and vulnerable groups have been protected.
The members were also keen to reinforce the vital role of air transport in facilitating the global response to the pandemic, including the timely distribution of medicines, testing kits, protective equipment and eventually vaccines around the world.
From 15 December the UK is implementing a scheme that to reduce the quarantine period for arriving passengers from 14 days to five, following a negative Covid-19 test from a private provider. Catriona Taylor, Passenger Director at global aircraft charter specialist, Chapman Freeborn, welcomed the news: “The new test and release system being discussed would absolutely bring a boost to travel in general, and the VIP and charter business. Businesses that would in normal times travel for meetings, conferences or events may be able to start travelling again.”
“Quarantine for five days vs fourteen is certainly a start for the return of not only business travel, but leisure travel too. People have been used to working at home and have had to lockdown in the UK twice already this year. So, a five-day quarantine could be a good balance when weighing up the benefits of being able to travel and be the kickstart the travel industry urgently needs. The airlines rely on the winter flying programmes and Christmas travel, and with a lower quarantine time this should increase the number of travellers. However, with the system being reviewed weekly this may still put travellers off.
“Certainly, something needs to change to allow aviation to start again, otherwise we may not see all of the airlines survive into 2021,” she warned.
Paul Everitt, chief executive of ADS, a UK trade organisation representing the aerospace sectors, with more than 1,100 member businesses, also saw the new testing policy as a “significant step towards the restart and recovery of UK aviation and aerospace”.
“Strict restrictions on travel have seriously impacted UK aerospace manufacturing. These measures will help restore consumer confidence and protect the many thousands of high-value jobs now at risk,” he stated.
“The Government must build on the test and release scheme to create, with our international partners, a more resilient approach to travel corridors. This will ensure further changes in domestic arrangements do not undermine consumer confidence and industry recovery plans.”