Reactivating international aviation is a major challenge for airlines and organizations involved. As the world moves forward post the COVID-19 pandemic, the health of passengers and minimizing the further spread of the virus have to be considered.
“The safety of passengers and crew is paramount,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit.”
Through an extensive analysis published this May 13, the IATA warned that the impacts caused by the COVID-19 crisis will continue in the medium term and international long-distance travel would be the most affected.
IATA assured that the quarantine measures imposed by the countries on travelers will affect the confidence of eventual customers. Given this complex context, the organization advocates a series of temporary measures as long as there is no vaccine for the condition.
De Juniac explained that they propose the combination of temporary measures that do not involve quarantine for travelers. These options include immunity passports as temporary biosecurity measures or “almost instantaneous” COVID-19 instant tests.
The immunity passport – placed on the table since the emergency increased – would be an official document issued by the health authorities of the countries to travelers, which will certify – under strict guidelines – that a passenger is free of COVID-19.
Currently, many countries (including Costa Rica) issue mandatory quarantine health orders for those arriving from other nations.
“To protect aviation’s ability to be a catalyst for economic recovery, we should not make that forecast worse by making travel impractical with quarantine measures. We need a safe travel solution that addresses two challenges. You must give passengers the confidence to travel safely and without undue hassle. And, it must give governments confidence that they are protected against importing the virus,” said De Juniac.
Other recommendations issued by the IATA include the ban on the travel of symptomatic people through early detection tests and the strengthening of the exchange of information between health authorities and airlines.
De Juniac added that it is key to agree on actions to reactivate international aviation as soon as possible. At the moment, IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) are working on the construction of alternatives.
If national air markets open – at least – in the third quarter of the year, with a gradual slower opening of national markets, world passenger demand (measured in passengers per kilometer transported, RPK) in 2021 would be 24% lower at 2019 levels. And, 32% lower than the forecast initially made -in 2019- for 2021.
Furthermore, global passenger demand levels would exceed 2019 data until 2023. Even by 2025, global RPK levels would be 10% lower.
The worst-case scenario, from a slower opening of the economies and the relaxation of restrictive measures until the third quarter of this 2020 as a result of a second pandemic wave, would delay the resumption of international air operations.
Thus, the global RPK for 2021 would be 34% lower than the 2019 levels and 41% below the initial forecasts for 2021.
“Rebuilding passenger confidence will take longer. And even then, individual and corporate travelers are likely to carefully manage travel expenses and stay closer to home,” the IATA executive director was quoted as saying.
When recovery begins, in European countries or in the United States, the most desired flights would be internal. According to a survey made by the IATA last April to recent travelers, 58% said that when the operation resumes, their first trip would be domestic.
“The impacts of the crisis on long-distance travel will be much more severe and longer-lasting than expected in national markets. This makes globally agreed and implemented biosecurity standards for the travel process even more critical. We have a small window to avoid the consequences of uncoordinated unilateral measures that marked the period after September 11, 2001. We must act quickly, “concluded De Juniac.
In Colombia, the Civil Aviation Authority of Colombia – “Aeronautica Civil” – is studying different scenarios for when the right moment comes to reopen the aiports.
The new normality for the sector will come from a handful of factors that are under the magnifying glass of the Aeronautica Civil: the moment in which the country lifts immigration restrictions on the entry of tourists, the behavior of demand on airlines and the facilities with which these companies attract customers to carry out the flights through the most pertinent sanitary measures.
None of these 3 areas allows absolute certainty of what will happen.
At the Aeronautica Civil work is being done on protocols that would apply once the immigration restriction is lifted.
New procedures, and potential future policies
Insider.com has made a list of 15 ways of how air travel might be different post Covid-19:
- You might be required to take a blood test or nasal swab ahead of a flight, or upon arrival.
- Temperature checks might become the norm.
- You’ll probably have to cover your face throughout flights.
- Forget crowded lines — you could start getting texts telling you it’s time to board.
- Flying could get more expensive.
- Airplane design could fundamentally change.
- A social distance-friendly class may emerge.
- Full body disinfection booths could become commonplace, maybe even cleaning robots.
- Bags may need to get sanitized separately.
- Both terminals and plane cabins could become contactless.
- Hot meals may be a thing of the past.
- In-flight janitors might become part of cabin crews.
- Plexiglass shields might become ubiquitous.
- You might need to show ID, as well as some sort of immunity document or health certificate.
- You may have to get to the airport even earlier.