ACI World joins call for universal COVID-19 tests

Airport representative group says aviation industry cannot re-start as long as countries keep borders sealed or enforce quarantines on arriving passengers

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Vietjet prepares to start a repatriation flight. (PHOTO: Vietjet)

Use this oneAirports Council International (ACI) World has jumped on the COVID-19 testing bandwagon and said it was joining with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in calling for universal testing of passengers as they depart “as an alternative to restrictive quarantine measures”.

As a result of the pandemic, ACI recently said the airport industry is anticipating global passenger numbers to decrease by 5.6 billion with an unprecedented US$104.5 billion reduction in revenue in 2020. Airports represent 60 percent of aviation jobs and local economies have been heavily affected by the reduction of activity.

A very quiet Changi Airport in Singapore on 12 August. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Many international borders remain closed, and in many cases international passengers are still subject to mandatory 14-day quarantine where some travel is possible. To better support recovery efforts, ACI has called for urgent government action to introduce widespread and coordinated testing of international passengers – based on internationally accepted protocols and on a risk-based and resource-effective approach – to enable quarantine requirements to be removed.

Some airlines are already testing passengers for COVID-19 before they even check in for their flights. (PHOTO: Emirates)

IATA earlier called for the same kind of testing and ACI said it supports this call “subject, however, to the availability of effective and accurate methods of testing and on the option of running it off-airport before travel to ensure better efficiency of travel and create a smooth testing process”.

ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira.

“Quarantine and unilateral decisions from governments are destroying efforts to restore air connectivity and, without the lifting of travel restrictions and quarantine, the aviation industry cannot rebuild and will not be able to drive the global economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “Testing will allow people to travel in a safe and efficient manner without increasing the risk of infection or the fear of unnecessary quarantine. Government action is urgently required to establish globally harmonised testing measures to foster a coordinated recovery while providing reassurance to travellers. To ensure efficiency and the smooth movement of travellers, testing cannot be done exclusively at the airport. Other options include testing conducted off-airport, pre-travel, always using a risk-based approach to take into account local conditions.”

The aviation industry came together to promote the widespread implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)’s Take-off Guidance but inconsistent and ever-changing border restrictions – along with confusion about quarantine requirements at a national level – have caused frustration for both businesses and travellers and dampened confidence in air travel. “Working together across the industry and hand in hand with ICAO and international health organisations is a must,” de Oliveira said. “This is the only way to develop a global approach to testing that will help establish consistent and workable procedures.”

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