Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the government and politicians in Spain to agree a roadmap to energize the economic recovery from COVID-19 by restarting air transport services once the health situation permits.

More than 1.1 million jobs have been put at risk across the Spanish economy because of COVID-19 restrictions. The travel restrictions and quarantine measures introduced have dramatically affected air traffic to and from Spain. Demand in 2020 fell by 72%. Early booking data for 2021 shows a continued similar lack of demand.

Spain benefits hugely from tourism, which accounts for 12% of the country’s GDP. Some 82% of tourists arrive by air. The wider economy also benefits from aviation-enabled trade and business activity – including the important international conference and trade fair sector, in which Spain is a global leader. Spain's recovery cannot materialise without a restart of tourism and aviation, which means implementing policies which open up the country and enable travelers to avoid quarantine.

“With increased testing capacity and vaccine distribution progressing there is light at the end of the tunnel. We can foresee a time when the health situation permits travel again. But airlines need adequate time to prepare for when freedom of movement can be restored. The best way to revive the sector is for the government to work with industry on a roadmap that will enable a lifting of restrictions and establish a coordinated opening of the country. Only in this way will we achieve the predictability that industry and passengers need for a robust restart,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.

It is vital governments manage the risk of importing COVID-19 cases while ensuring travel is safe. Vaccination and testing play a central role as they represent the best measures to give confidence to both governments and passengers. This means offering quick, easy and low-cost options for testing, and increasing the roll-out of vaccinations.

A digital solution is essential if a safe and efficient restart is to happen. IATA is urging the government to accelerate work for a common digital certificate for testing and vaccination. Such certificates could then connect with passenger digital apps in development, such as the IATA Travel Pass. This will allow passengers to find accurate information on travel, testing and vaccination requirements for their journey; enable authorised laboratories and testing centres to securely send test results or vaccination certificates to passengers; and give passenger the ability to securely share certificates with authorities to facilitate travel.

“We recognize that the government has a difficult balancing act between unlocking the economy and safeguarding public health. We are not demanding a date for border restrictions to be lifted. But Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and all policy-makers in Spain must agree a vision for how international travel can and will be restarted as the pandemic ends. That vision would include explaining how a phased reduction of restrictions would work, and the levels to which infections or hospitalizations would need to fall to trigger those reductions. With this science-based approach locked in, the industry and the public will have the certainty to plan for take-off,” said Schvartzman. 

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Notes for Editors:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic.
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  • IATA asked Spanish transport workers to offer their message to Spanish politicians on social media on why a roadmap for restarting aviation is so important. See a selection of the responses (pdf) in Spanish.