Alexandre de Juniac photo

Good afternoon and welcome to everyone.

Today I want to talk to you about COVID-19 testing in the travel process. IATA is calling for the systematic testing of all international travelers before departure. This should enable governments to safely open borders without quarantine. And it will provide passengers with the certainty that they can travel without having to worry about a last-minute change in government rules that could spoil their plans.

We did not come to this decision lightly.

  • The integration of systematic testing into the travel process will present logistical challenges and impact how people travel
  • It will need testing manufacturers to develop tests that can be deployed that are fast, accurate, scalable, affordable and easy to use. And, considering the potential scale of the testing required, non-medical personal will need to be able to operate it effectively
  • And it will need governments and health authorities to agree on common standards so that tests administered in the departure country are accepted on arrival

So there is quite a lot of work to do. But if you look at the uptake in travel since the cautious re-opening of borders beginning in June, the results have been dismally disappointing. International travel was at just 8% of its year-ago levels in July. There were little signs of improvement in August. So the summer travel season did not deliver any real bounce to the industry’s re-start. And it is hard to see a major uptick in corporate travel amid the concerns of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Quarantine measures are killing the industry’s recovery. Some 83% of travelers in a recent 11-market survey said that they will not travel if there is a chance of being quarantined at their destination. That is a very clear signal that this industry will not recover until we can find an alternative to quarantine.

We believe that alternative to quarantine is systematic 100% testing of all travelers before departure. And the same public opinion poll tells us that this is what passengers will accept.

  • 84% agreed that testing should be required of all travelers
  • 88% agreed that they are willing to undergo testing as part of the travel process

That still leaves the challenges that I outlined earlier to be addressed. And here is how I believe we can do that:

  • Cooperation: We will work with the airports and other partners on how to include systematic testing in the travel process. Testing should not be a permanent fixture, so we could be creative with solutions. It’s a challenge, but we have done it with the growing footprint of security in the travel process.

And we should not forget that there are many testing programs in place as part of the travel bubble or travel corridor concept that is being pursued bilaterally by some governments. These are giving us practical knowledge of what will be needed to do testing on the scale that would be required for a full industry re-start.

But we firmly believe that testing must be done before departure. This seals off the system. In addition to giving governments the confidence to re-open borders, this approach will also boost passenger confidence knowing that everybody on the aircraft has been tested. And, by doing it in the travel process which is tightly managed, we are avoiding issues of quality control or fraudulent results.

  • Availability: Testing technology is rapidly developing. Roche and Abbott, for example have tests that meet most criteria but need medical personnel to administer them. The speed at which testing capabilities are advancing tells us that we will have deployable options in the coming weeks. And by signaling now that this is the industry’s preferred option, we are sending a strong message to the market that should accelerate development and earmark aviation as a big customer.
  • Global Standards: Testing will only be meaningful if results at departure are accepted on arrival. This is where the leadership of the ICAO CART process which brings together governments, the health authorities through WHO and the industry—will be critical. We are proposing that governments agree to testing standards through ICAO. The CART process has been efficient so far with the Take-off guidelines being widely accepted and implemented. We will be working closely with ICAO and the health authorities to make this next step a success as well.

Time is of the essence. Our position today is setting a major marker for everyone in the industry to aim for. Much will need to be done to achieve 100% testing of all travelers prior to departure. We don’t see any alternative solution that would be less challenging or more effective.

Aviation has a track record of pulling together to meet major challenges. We did it with security after 9.11. We were the first industry to set and achieve global targets on environment. And each and every day we work together to deliver the safest form of long-distance travel.

I am confident that, by uniting around a common position on testing, we will deliver an effective alternative to quarantine that will be accepted by governments and their health authorities. And, in doing so, we will aid in the economic recovery. Aviation supports the 10% of global employment tied to travel and tourism. And we are a key driver of global trade that supports the livelihoods million more.

I look forward to your questions.

Media Briefing Recording: Listen to the teleconference (mp3)