Aviation during pandemic

New Updates to COVID-19 Global Aviation Recovery Guidelines

The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Council endorsed new updates to its Aviation Recovery Task Force’s (CART’s) ‘Take-off’ Guidelines for international air transport.

The new guidelines provide recommendations for countries to consider adopting per their current local medical status, and on specific priorities including general hygiene, masks and face coverings, health screening and declarations, air passengers with reduced mobility, and the mental health and well-being of aviation workers and passengers.

They also reacknowledge the sovereignty and authority of each country over its national pandemic recovery priorities, including with respect to the evaluation and use of passenger testing to help alleviate quarantine measures and reconnect destinations globally.

“Countries are urged to follow this updated guidance to align their measures, while upholding each State’s prerogative to implement additional and/or alternative mitigation measures in accordance with their specific needs and circumstances,” underscored ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano.

“The speed of the evolving global situation requires timely and targeted guidance to effectively support States in their efforts to contain the pandemic while pursuing the restart and recovery of aviation,” he emphasized. “This makes clear the critical importance of global and regional coordination on setting out mutually accepted measures.”

The Chair of the Recovery Task Force, Estanislao Esono Anguesomo of Equatorial Guinea, noted that the latest task force updates focus “primarily on the evolving technological and medical advancements in the fight against COVID-19. They incorporate the continuous feedback ICAO is receiving from national authorities, international organizations including the World Health and Tourism Organizations (WHO/UNWTO), as well as regional organizations and industry.”

The high-level cover document for the new guidelines emphasizes that a combination of measures, coordinated between governments and industry, will be essential to the re-establishment of public confidence in air travel. It points out this is the only sustainable solution to overcome the economic and financial situation that the sector currently faces.

ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu welcomed this viewpoint, and hoped that the latest global guidance outcomes from the countries, UN agencies, industry groups and regional organizations which are contributing to the CART would help get passengers flying again.

“The ICAO Secretariat is providing critical global monitoring, guidance, and coordination resources to help countries implement the CART recommendations,” she commented, “and we’ve been encouraged by recent progress on the establishment of new international travel and health corridors between specific destinations. These are realizing some important and prudent first steps toward increased traveller confidence and sectoral recovery.”

The following three recommendations are being added to the Take-off guidance with the full support of the International Air Transport Association (IATA):

  • COVID-19 Testing:
    With some States considering the use of testing and with the availability of improved COVID-19 testing technology, there is a need for guidance material to facilitate harmonization. This is being developed in a Manual on Testing and Cross Border Risk Management Measures and will be a key enabler of IATA’s call for systematic testing before departure for international travelers.
  • Public Health Corridors or Travel Bubbles:
    ICAO is asking States which are considering the formation of a Public Health Corridor (PHC, more commonly known as travel bubbles) to actively share information with each other to implement these in a harmonized manner. To facilitate implementation of PHCs, the ICAO Implementation Package (iPack) on establishing a PHC is available to States. 
  • Extending regulatory alleviations till 31 March 2021:
    While maintaining the highest standards for safety, COVID-19 has forced the industry to temporarily adapt certain regulatory processes, especially those related to staff qualification and training. Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, the Take-off guidance recommends that such alleviations should not be extended beyond 31 March 2021.  It is essential that States consider flight crew as ‘key workers’ to benefit from PHC and are encouraged to enable access to medical and training facilities. This includes flight simulation training devices used for flight crew to maintain certifications, recency of experience and proficiency for licensed personnel.

“The public should be reassured. The Take-off guidance will keep flying safe through this pandemic with recommendations that combine the best advice of public health authorities such as the World Health Organization with the technical expertise of aviation regulators and operators. By addressing the need for harmonized COVID-19 testing requirements as part of a multi-layered approach, CART is also contributing to building confidence among governments to manage the risks of COVID-19 importation while removing barriers to travel such as quarantines. The aim is to safely reconnect the world and these recommendations are moving us forward”, said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO

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