Battling the COVID-19 crisis is the world’s top priority and airlines are committed to the fight. We are partnering with governments and other stakeholders to deliver vaccines under strict time and temperature standards. We are developing a digital app to make travel in the post-Covid world easier and quicker. We have implemented recommendations from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) throughout the travel process to keep passengers and crew safe.
The freedom to travel is important. Connecting the world by air will provide vital stability for tens of millions of people whose jobs have been lost or remain at risk from the pandemic. It will bring relief to social and mental toll caused by loss of income, lockdowns and family separations. And it will enable human connections that we all value.
If we work together – the air transport sector, governments and health experts - we can get the world flying again.
Partnership with governments is key
We know how much the freedom to travel means to individuals, businesses, economies and nations. That’s why we are partnering with governments so that there is no unnecessary delay in restarting aviation.
Partnerships with government are not new to aviation. It is the cornerstone of how we made flying the safest form of long-distance travel. We are working with governments to put in country-level roadmaps to re-open borders without quarantine that take into account vaccination, testing capacity and the prevalence of the virus.
“A safe re-start will need careful planning and coordination by governments and industry. There is now encouraging evidence that vaccines are highly effective in reducing infection and transmission of the virus and its variants. And testing can provide access to quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated passengers. But we face immense challenges due to the patchwork of rules applied around the world. Only governments can sort this out with global standards based on data. The aviation is ready to help, provided governments set benchmarks against which we can plan for restart,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh.
Building blocks for reconnecting the world
- Roadmaps for reconnecting
- Biosafety measures
- Financial aid
Roadmaps for reconnecting
As governments consider the roadmaps to re-establishing the freedom to travel, several key elements will be considered:
- Vaccinations: IATA supports unrestricted access to travel for vaccinated travelers and welcomes the growing number of countries that have wholly or partially lifted restrictions for vaccinated travelers. There is increasing scientific evidence that vaccination is not only protecting people but also dramatically reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. See our position paper on Facilitating Air Travel for Vaccinated Passengers (pdf).
- Vaccine harmonization: a globally standardized approach is critical, particularly with regard to equivalent treatment of different vaccines and mutual recognition of vaccination certificates.
- Testing: many governments are implementing testing regimes to facilitate travel, which IATA supports as a way of ensuring equitable access to quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travelers. Testing requirements should not create an economic distortion between travelers. Indeed, PCR tests costs ranging from $100 to $200 or more could become a deterrent to travel – in particular among families. IATA applauds states where testing for travelers is free and accessible, in line with WHO regulations.
- Trusted testing framework: as with vaccination, a global framework for testing is important to ensure that travelers are not caught in the middle when governments do not recognize each other’s testing regimes. Standardizing the appropriate testing certificates is also essential.
- Crew: the ICAO-CART guidance recommends that crew be exempted from testing processes and restrictions designed for passengers. IATA supports crew health management protocols, for example, regular testing at home bases, along with limited interaction with the local community during layovers. This enables airlines to manage risks while maintaining operational viability.
- The IATA Travel Pass: IATA has developed a digital app to manage the health credentials passengers need for travel. The IATA Travel Pass will help governments, airlines and individual travelers manage vaccine or testing requirements with accurate information, secure identification and verified data. Pilot programs are underway with a growing number of partnerships, and several countries have recognized IATA Travel Pass for cross-border use. See our Travel Pass media kit.
Bio-safety - ensuring passenger and crew safety
With strict bio-safety measures, including the wearing of masks throughout the travel process, the air travel environment is safe. Studies by Harvard, the US Department of Defense and aircraft manufacturers point to the low risk of air travel when wearing a mask. And fewer than 100 of 50 million COVID-19 cases reported globally until October 2020 had been documented as passenger-to-passenger transmission in flight. See press release.
The WHO, public health authorities, IATA, airports, manufacturers and other key stakeholders have been collaborating through ICAO to produce guidance on bio-safety measures: the ICAO CART take-off guidance. Using this guidance, IATA has produced a roadmap to implement best practices across all stages of the travel journey from pre-departure to arrival.
The bio-safety measures include:
- Wearing face covering, contactless check-in, health screening at airports, physical distancing where possible
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection processes (pdf)
- On-board cabin architecture including hospital-grade HEPA filters and air flow direction
Financial aid & cutting costs
The final critical element to a safe and successful restart is continued government financial and regulatory support, regulatory alleviation and cost reduction across the value chain. The approximately $239 billion in financial support provided by governments has been a lifeline for many airlines. Cash burn is expected to hit $81 billion in 2021, adding to the $149 billion in 2020, and demand is not expected to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2023.
Continued support to stabilize the industry will be needed, particularly to retain critical skills. This support must not further inflate the industry’s debt burden which has increased by over 50% to $651 billion.
Airlines have drastically cut costs but revenues have fallen faster. This continues to put aviation jobs at risk.
The industry must live within the means of drastically reduced revenues. In particular, it is imperative that airports and air navigation service providers avoid cost increases to fill gaps in budgets that are dependent on pre-crisis traffic levels. And, regulatory alleviations, including slot allocation waivers (80-20 “use it or lose it” rule), must be continued until a normalization is achieved.