COVID-19: ICAO adopts new aviation recovery guidelines to reconnect the world

IATA, ACI World say rules will ‘assist in global harmonisation of pandemic measures

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Thousands of planes around the world have been grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council said late Monday (1 June) that it has issued a new report with recommendations aimed at restarting the international air transport system and aligning its global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that has halted most international air travel as governments continue to close their borders or enforce quarantine measures that keep people from travelling.

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

The COVID-19 report and guidelines were produced by the Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) and were developed in consultation with countries and regional organisations as well as with advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and key aviation industry groups including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI World), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA).


Download the Take-Off Guidelines here.

Salvatore Sciacchitano, president of the ICAO Council. (PHOTO: File)

“The world looked to the ICAO Council to provide the high-level guidance which governments and industry needed to begin restarting international air transport and recovering from COVID-19,” said ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano. “We have answered this call today with the delivery of this report, and with its recommendations and Take-Off guidelines which will now align public and private sector actions and mitigations as we get the world flying again, in full accordance with the latest and most prudent medical and traveller health advice available to us.”

CART Chairperson Ambassador Philippe Bertoux, the representative of France to the ICAO Council, noted that the CART guidelines were intended to inform, align and progress the national, regional, and industry-specific COVID-19 recovery roadmaps now being implemented, but not to replace them. “These guidelines will facilitate convergence, mutual recognition and harmonisation of aviation COVID-19 related measures across the globe,” he said. “They are intended to support the restart and recovery of global air travel in a safe, secure and sustainable way. In order to be effective, we need to take a layered and especially a risk-based approach. Measures will be implemented or removed as needed based on the wide ranging medical and other factors which will be at play,” he added.

NZ regional airports
An empty airport shows the current state of the industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

The CART’s report contains a situational analysis and key principles supported by a series of recommendations focused around objectives for public health, aviation safety and security, and aviation economic recovery.

Dr Fang Liu, secretary general of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. (PHOTO: ICAO)

ICAO Secretary General Dr Fang Liu also welcomed the CART’s accomplishment and highlighted that ICAO will continue to develop implementation packages to assist Member States to restart the operations and recovery. “Restoring public confidence in air travel has very broad benefits. This isn’t only about the operational and economic viability of the air transport sector, but of entire societies and regions having their economic livelihoods and stability restored”, she commented.

The main trade group for global airports, ACI World said it welcomed the new report and said the recommendations will help to inform worldwide governments and regulators in aligning and progress the local, national, and regional recovery plans that are now being implemented around the world to foster a globally harmonised recovery.

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Angela Gittens, director general of ACI World. (PHOTO: ACI World)

“Aviation is an interconnected and interdependent global ecosystem and continued global collaboration, cooperation and consistency are key, first for the industry to successfully restart, and then for sustaining a balanced recovery,” said ACI World Director General Angela Gittens. “The focus for airports as they restart and then prepare to sustain continuing operations will be, first and foremost, will be the health and welfare of travellers, staff, and the public, and to minimise the opportunities for dissemination of disease.”

IATA too was fully behind the new guidelines. “The universal implementation of global standards has made aviation safe. A similar approach is critical in this crisis so that we can safely restore air connectivity as borders and economies re-open,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

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IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac (centre) and other IATA officials address reporters in Geneva at IATA’s Media Day in December 2019. (PHOTO: IATA)

“The Take-Off guidance document was built with the best expertise of government and industry. Airlines strongly support it. Now we are counting on governments to implement the recommendations quickly, because the world wants to travel again and needs airlines to play a key role in the economic recovery. And we must do this with global harmonisation and mutual recognition of efforts to earn the confidence of travellers and air transport workers,” de Juniac said.


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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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