COVID-19: AAPA says standard health rules needed for air travel to resume and passenger confidence

Asian airline trade group says any measures ‘should be practical and based on accepted medical standards’.

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The Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines (AAPA), the main trade body representing some of the region’s top airlines, said COVID-19 pandemic mitigation efforts like testing, contact tracing, and social distancing being implemented by governments across the world and discussed as a way to help commercial passenger traffic resume, “need to be consistent, coherent and coordinated among governments working closely together with airlines, airports and health authorities, in line with the relevant World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. To address public confidence concerns over the safety of air travel, any measures should be practical and based on accepted medical standards, as part of a robust risk management framework”.

Matt Driskill
A screenshot taken of the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracking site. To access the live site, click on the image. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

AAPA Director General Subhas Menon said “wherever possible, processes such as travellers’ health declarations should be automated and made available on mobile devices for the convenience of the travelling public. Departure screening procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 should preferably be applied before travellers board their flights. Precautionary measures on-board are being discussed, and will likely include the compulsory wearing of masks by all travellers and airline crew. Other measures such as leaving the middle seat empty have been suggested, but would make air travel much more costly without any meaningful public benefit in terms of risk reduction.”

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“The restart of aviation is likely to be sporadic, reflecting uncertainties in the stabilisation of the pandemic and public confidence levels,” Menon said. “The resumption of flights is likely to start in the Asia-Pacific region given that the region has had more time to deal with the pandemic. A number of governments in the region are already undertaking joint discussions for the resumption of cross-border travel, and we applaud these efforts to jumpstart the wider economy, recognising the crucial role played by the aviation industry.

Shutterstock
Airlines around the globe, have parked their planes as traffic remains grounded. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

“The COVID-19 pandemic is probably the greatest challenge that the global air transport industry has ever faced,” he added. “The industry must introduce and adapt processes to minimise risk while at the same time restoring confidence and trust in air travel. Travellers should be able to undertake journeys with full confidence that measures are being undertaken to protect their well-being.

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The Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines Directo General Subhas Menon. (PHOTO: AAPA)

“The resumption of international air travel requires a global approach and harmonised measures across borders. AAPA calls on governments to work closely together and collaborate with industry in developing measures that are standardised, pragmatic, based on accepted medical standards and a robust risk management framework, in our common objective of serving the travelling public and reviving the wider economy,” Menon said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously affected global economic activity, including trade, tourism and employment levels. AAPA and other associations like the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said aviation supports 65.5 million jobs around the world, with one job in the industry supporting 24 other jobs in the wider economy.

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Asian Aviation
Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.

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