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Fri, 29 January 2021

IATA DG: We Can See Light at the End of the Tunnel

IATA has called on governments to partner with the air transport industry to devise plans to safely re-link people, business and economies when the COVID19 epidemiological situation permits.

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel as vaccination programs roll out, said Alexandre de Juniac, IATAs Director General and CEO. Turning this vision into a safe and orderly re-start will require careful planning and coordination by governments and industry. This will be challenging as the priority for the weeks and months ahead will be containing the spread of new variants. But even as the crisis deepens, it is important to prepare the way for a resumption of flights when the epidemiological situation permits. Understanding government policy benchmarks and agreeing the global standards needed to support a return to normality in travel will ensure that air transport is well-prepared and does not become a meaningful vector for reimportation. Airlines are ready to support governments in this task.

IATA says it is already seeing some governments evolving principles in their testing/vaccination programs that could form the foundation for global harmonization. These include:

Wing of an Airbus A350-900. Picture by Steven Howard of TravelNewsAsia.com Click to enlarge.

Vaccinations: Most governments are pursuing a vaccination strategy that seeks to protect their health care workers and most vulnerable populations first. IATA suggests re-opening borders to travel when this has been achieved, as the greatest risks will have been mitigated.

The Vaccinated: The Greek government has proposed that vaccinated individuals should be immediately exempted from travel restrictions, including quarantine. IATA says it supports moves by governments, including Poland, Latvia, Lebanon and Seychelles, to implement this exemption.

Testing: Many governments are implementing testing regimes to facilitate travel. Germany and the US, for example, are taking advantage of the rapid improvement in testing technologies to accept PCR and antigen testing to safely manage the risks of travel. While rapid antigen tests are preferred for their speed and cost advantages, it is clear that PCR testing will play a role as many governments are requiring tests within a 48 to 72-hour window prior to travel.

Crew: The ICAO-CART guidance recommends that crew be exempt from testing processes and restrictions that are designed for passengers. IATA says it supports crew health management protocols which include, for example, regular testing and health checks at home bases, along with strict guidelines limiting interaction with the local community during crew layovers. This enables airlines to manage the risks of COVID19 while maintaining operational viability.

There are plenty of moving parts in the equation. The number of people vaccinated, and the availability of testing are key among them. Airlines have adapted their operations in order to maintain cargo operations and some passenger services, while complying with the numerous and uncoordinated restrictions imposed. Building on this experience they can help governments with their preparations for eventually safely re-establishing global connectivity for their people, businesses and economies, said de Juniac.

Underlying all scenarios for the re-establishment of air connectivity is the development of global standards so that the requirements of one country can be followed by travelers originating in other jurisdictions. Key global standards that are being developed include:

Vaccination Certificates: The WHO is leading efforts to build the standards needed to digitally record vaccination information that will be critical to re-establishing international travel. The Smart Vaccination Certificate will be the digital successor to the long-established yellow book used to manage vaccinations such as yellow fever.

Global Framework for Testing: The OECD is laying the foundation for a global framework to help governments trust testing data based on mutual recognition of testing results. The urgency of such a framework was demonstrated by the recent suspension of flights between the UAE and Denmark over concerns about the UAEs testing regime. A trusted framework will ensure that travelers are not caught in the middle when governments do not recognize each others testing regimes. Standardizing the appropriate testing certificates is also essential.

Digital Travel Credential (DTC): ICAO has published standards to create a DTC from ePassports. Along with enabling contactless travel as recommended by ICAO-CART guidelines, the credentials are an essential component in digitally matching travelers to their vaccination and testing certificates. The standard exists and the challenge now is implementation.

As we have seen, unilateral government decisions are very effective in shutting down global mobility. Re- establishing the freedom to travel, however, can only be done with cooperation. Governments are already seeing how challenging that will be without global standards for vaccines or tests. This puts a spotlight on the urgency of the essential work being done by WHO, OECD and ICAO. IATA is participating in these initiatives and stands ready to help governments with implementation, de Juniac said.

IATA is building the information infrastructure it believes will help to safely re-start travel. The IATA Travel Pass is an industry solution designed to help governments, airlines and individual travelers manage vaccine or testing requirements with accurate information, secure identification and verified data.

The first pilot program to test the app in a real travel situation commenced with Singapore Airlines in December 2020. A growing list of airlines are confirming their intention to use IATA Travel Pass, including IAG, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

Based on our deep experience of driving transformational change in global air transport, we believe that IATA Travel Pass will offer the best support to governments in managing vaccination and testing data to safely facilitate travel. But the success of any of the solutions being developed will depend on governments working with and trusting each other. Air transport built its reputation on safety by cooperating with governments to ensure universal implementation of transparent global standards. Thats a compelling model for how industry and governments can work together to re-connect the world using opportunities created testing and vaccination progress, said de Juniac.

See latest Travel Industry News, Video Interviews, Podcasts and other news regarding: COVID19, IATA, Air Travel, IATA Travel Pass.

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