Already, the ICAO Council has approved Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis, known as Takeoff. This is an authoritative and comprehensive framework of risk-based temporary measures for air transport operations during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The Takeoff guidance document was built with the best expertise of government and industry,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Airlines strongly support it. Now we are counting on governments to implement the recommendations quickly, because the world wants to travel again and needs airlines to play a key role in the economic recovery. And we must do this with global harmonization and mutual recognition of efforts to earn the confidence of travelers and air transport workers.”
Takeoff proposes a phased approach to restarting aviation and identifies a set of generally applicable risk-based measures. In line with recommendations and guidance from public health authorities, these will mitigate the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus during the travel process.
These measures include:
- Physical distancing to the extent feasible and implementation of “adequate risk-based measures where distancing is not feasible, for example in aircraft cabins”
- Wearing of face coverings and masks by passengers and aviation workers
- Routine sanitation and disinfection of all areas with potential for human contact and transmission
- Health screening, which could include pre- and post-flight self-declarations, as well as temperature screening and visual observation, “conducted by health professionals”
- Contact tracing for passengers and aviation employees: updated contact information should be requested as part of the health self-declaration, and interaction between passengers and governments should be made directly though government portals
- Passenger health declaration forms, including self-declarations in line with the recommendations of relevant health authorities. Electronic tools should be encouraged to avoid paper
- Testing: if and when real-time, rapid and reliable testing becomes available.
Takeoff was one element of work of the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART). The CART report to the ICAO Council highlighted that it is of “paramount importance to avoid a global patchwork of incompatible [aviation] health safety measures.” It urges ICAO Member States to “implement globally- and regionally-harmonized, mutually accepted measures that do not create undue economic burdens or compromise the safety and security of civil aviation.”
“The leadership of ICAO and the commitment of our fellow CART members have combined to quickly lay the foundation for a safe restoration of air transport amid the COVID-19 crisis,” said de Juniac. “We salute the unity of purpose that guided aviation’s stakeholders to a solid conclusion. Moreover, we fully support CART’s findings and look forward to working with governments for a well-coordinated systematic implementation that will enable flights to resume, borders to open and quarantine measures to be lifted.”