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Wed, 20 May 2020

Biosecurity for Air Transport: A Roadmap for Restarting Aviation

IATA has published a roadmap which outlines the association’s ideas on how best to approach biosecurity measures at airports as COVID19 travel restrictions are lifted.

The Biosecurity for Air Transport: A Roadmap for Restarting Aviation recommends that governments layer their approach to biosecurity, collecting passenger data and required health certifications in advance, just as they would with an eVisa or other electronic travel authorization programmes.

“There is no single measure that will reduce risk and enable a safe re-start of flying,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “But a layering measures that are globally implemented and mutually recognized by governments can achieve the needed outcome. This is the greatest crisis that aviation has ever faced. A layered approach has worked with safety and with security. It’s the way forward for biosecurity as well.”

Aircraft flying overhead. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

At the departure airport, IATA foresees several layers of protective measures:

- Access to the terminal building should be restricted to airport / airline workers and travelers (with exceptions being made for those accompanying passengers with disabilities or unaccompanied minors).

- Temperature screening by trained government staff at entry points to the terminal building.

- Physical distancing through all passenger processes, including queue management.

- Use of face coverings for passengers and masks for staff in line with local regulations.

- Self-service options for check-in used by passengers as much as possible to reduce contact points and queues. This includes remote check-in (electronic / home printed boarding passes), automated bag drops (with home printed bag tags) and self-boarding.

- Boarding should be made as efficient as possible with re-designed gate areas, congestion-reducing boarding priorities, and hand luggage limitations.

- Cleaning and sanitization of high touch areas in line with local regulations. This includes wide availability of hand sanitizers.

In-flight:

- Face coverings required for all passengers and non-surgical masks for crew.

- Simplified cabin service and pre-packaged catering to reduce interaction between passengers and crew.

- Reduced congregation of passengers in the cabin, for example by prohibiting queues for washrooms.

- Enhanced and more frequent deep cleaning of the cabin.

At the arrival airport:

- Temperature screening by trained government staff if required by authorities.

- Automated procedures for customs and border control including use of mobile applications and biometric technologies (which have already proven tack record by some governments).

- Accelerated processing and baggage reclaim to enable social distancing by reducing congestion and queuing.

- Health declarations and robust contact tracing are expected to be undertaken by governments to reduce the risk of imported chains of transmission.

IATA has stressed that these measures should be temporary, regularly reviewed and replaced when more efficient options are identified or removed should they become unnecessary.

 Specifically, IATA expressed hope in two areas which could be ‘game-changers’ in facilitating efficient travel until a vaccine is found:

COVID19 testing: IATA supports testing when scalable, accurate and fast results are available. Testing at the start of the travel process would create a ‘sterile’ travel environment that would reassure travelers and governments.

Immunity passports: IATA would support the development of immunity passports to segregate no-risk travelers, at a time when these are backed by medical science and recognized by governments.

IATA reiterated its opposition to social distancing on board aircraft and quarantine measures on arrival:

- IATA says that quarantine measures are obviated by the combination of temperature checks and contract tracing. Temperature screening reduces the risk of symptomatic passengers from traveling, while health declarations and contact tracing after arrival reduce the risk of imported cases developing into local chains of transmission.

- The association also believes that social distancing on board (leaving the middle seat open) is obviated by the wearing of face coverings by all on board on top of transmission reducing characteristics of the cabin (everybody is front facing, air flow is from ceiling to floor, seats provide a barrier to forward/aft transmission, and air filtration systems that operate to hospital operating theatre standards).

“The roadmap is the industry’s high-level thinking on safely re-starting aviation,” said de Juniac. “Timing is critical. Governments understand the importance of aviation to the social and economic recovery of their countries and many are planning a phased re-opening of borders in the coming months. We have a short time to reach agreement on the initial standards to support safely reconnecting the world and to firmly establish that global standards are essential to success. This will change as technology and medical science advances. The vital element is coordination. If we don’t take these first steps in a harmonized way, we will spend many painful years recovering ground that should not have been lost.”

See latest Travel News, Video Interviews, Podcasts and other news regarding: COVID19, IATA, Security, Biosecurity.

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