LONDON (The Southern African Times) – The global representative body of the airline industry, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has just published a new policy paper. Titled ‘From Restart to Recovery: A Blueprint for Simplifying Travel’, it sets out the industry’s position regarding the measures that need to be taken to ramp up international commercial air travel as countries reopen their borders, closed in attempts to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. In it, Iata calls for governments to adopt procedures that are simple, predictable and practical.
“Travel is important,” highlighted Iata deputy director-general Conrad Clifford. “Pre-pandemic, some 88-million livelihoods were directly connected to aviation. And the ability to travel freely by air has impacted the quality of life for billions of people.”
In its new policy paper, Iata urges governments to implement simplified health protocols, digital health credential processing procedures, and measures to counter Covid-19 that are proportionate to the actual risk levels (including a continuous review process). “We know that travellers feel confident with the implementation of the Covid-19 safety measures,” he pointed out. “But they have clearly told us that the current travel experience needs to improve with better information, simpler processing and digital solutions.”
Member governments of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao – a specialist agency of the United Nations) have agreed with the outcomes of the Icao High Level Conference on Covid-19 (HLCC), expressed in a Ministerial Declaration. This Icao Ministerial Declaration is in line with equivalent Ministerial declarations by the Group of Seven major developed economies and the Group of 20 major developed and emerging economies.
“As governments are establishing processes to reopen borders, in line with what they agreed in the Ministerial Declaration of the Icao [HLCC], the Blueprint will help them with good practices and practical considerations,” he explained. “Over the next months we need to move from individual border openings to the restoration of a global air transport network that can reconnect communities and facilitate economic recovery.”
Regarding health protocols, Iata stresses that these should be predictable, consistent and simple. All travel barriers, including testing and quarantine, should be removed for travellers who are completely vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation. As for non-vaccinated passengers, they should be exempt from quarantine if they have pre-departure antigen test results that are negative.
Travel health credentials should be digitalised, and passengers should be able to complete the required processes online and in advance so that, when they reach the airport, they are ready to travel. This will allow the use of automated check-in facilities and so cut queues and waiting times at airports.
“Industry and governments have amassed crucial and vast experience with Covid-19,” observed Iata. “This will continue as Covid-19 becomes endemic. Covid-19 measures must reflect this growing knowledge, changing risk levels and societal tolerance. While day-to-day modifications to measures would introduce unpredictability that would be counter-productive, regular reviews and adjustments are needed.”