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IATA Urges Government to Restart Aviation
||Kamil Al Awadhi, IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East; Tourists heading for their destination trip
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on governments in the Middle East to develop re-start plans to safely re-link their citizens, businesses and economies to global markets when the COVID-19 epidemiological situation permits. IATA also called for regional coordination to ensure that the plans can be efficiently implemented and urged governments to remain vigilant about the industry’s financial situation.
“Re-establishing air connectivity will energize the economic recovery from COVID-19. With millions of jobs at risk from the prolonged shutdown, not a day should be lost once the epidemiological situation enables a re-opening. Restarting safely after a year or more in lockdown will need careful preparations. At the national level it is important that governments work with industry, so everyone understands the benchmarks that need to be achieved to facilitate the lifting of travel restrictions. And at the regional level, where traffic is expected to ramp-up first, it is critical that governments are talking to each other so that all parties are aligned and ready for a restart,” said Kamil Al Awadhi, IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.
IATA data shows January air passenger traffic in the region was down 82.3% compared to January 2019. The ongoing crisis puts over 1.7 million jobs in the Middle East and $105 billion in GDP at risk. “This is a unique situation. But we have good practices to rely on. Safety is the top priority for anything associated with aviation. That is because governments have long established global best practices for working together with industry and with each other. This same approach will help the re-start. There are two ends to every route. Both must be prepared or the restart cannot happen,” said Al Awadhi.
IATA highlighted two critical areas of areas where governments need to work together:
A successful operational restart will include bringing aircraft and terminals back into service. Airlines need to ready their crew, technical personnel and aircraft. After a year of lockdowns, this requires refresher training and checks. A regional overview is needed to ensure that the one country’s restart qualifications are accepted by its regional partners and ensure that sufficient infrastructure capacity is ready to meet demand as markets unlock.
Testing and vaccinations will play a role in opening borders to travel as the pandemic comes under control. Simple, efficient, and harmonized standards for what credentials people will need to travel will boost consumer confidence and give strength to the recovery.
The ICAO Council’s recent approval of requirements for globally accepted COVID-19 test certificates, including the technology framework for secure digital versions and the future incorporation of vaccination certificates provides a global framework. Cooperation for a harmonized implementation across the Middle East will put the region on a solid footing for recovery.
IATA Travel Pass will help to conveniently manage health credentials, while protecting against fraud. “With Qatar Airways already piloting IATA Travel Pass and Emirates, Etihad and Gulf Air signed-up for trials, the Gulf is at the forefront of preparations,” said Al Awadhi.
Continued Financial Relief Essential
The financial trauma of the COVID-19 crisis continues. In 2020 Middle East airlines posted losses of $7.1billion in 2020; a loss of $68.47 for each passenger flown. With traffic at less than 20% of 2019 levels, the cash burn continues even with severe cost-cutting.
“A financially viable air transport sector will be needed to energize the recovery. Government relief for airlines has avoided massive failures that would jeopardize a restart. This has not been uniform across the region. With no clear timeline to recovery the situation is far from resolved. Governments that have provided relief will need to be prepared for more. And governments that have not yet stepped-up must recognize the growing risks to their economies as the crisis drags on,” said Al Awadhi.
ICAO Guidance Supports
Harmonized Global Recovery
||Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General, ACI World
Airports Council International (ACI) World has recently welcomed updated industry guidance published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which will support a harmonized and consistent global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aviation has been brought to a standstill and a balanced and effective restart and recovery will depend on collaboration among the key participants in the global aviation ecosystem.
ACI World believes the new Phase III updates issued by the Council Aviation Recovery Task Force – and adopted today by the ICAO Council – will help bring this coordination. The updates include renewed policy recommendations to States, the Take-Off Guidance Document, and the Manual on Cross Border Testing and Risk Management.
“ACI has provided strong support and collaboration to ICAO and we welcome the publication of its updated guidance along with the new considerations on testing and vaccination which will help to set a global standard for recovery,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said.
“While the industry continues to navigate the impacts and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a successful recovery will require consistency and globally harmonization.
“The updated guidance published recently will provide immeasurable assistance in promoting the harmonization of measures being introduced around the world to facilitate the restart of air travel which will allow aviation to be a key engine driving global economic recovery.
“The new guidance includes a recommendation to governments that aviation workers in critical safety and security positions are recognized as essential workers and prioritized fore vaccination in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines. ACI has made a similar call because this will ensure the availability of air transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“ACI will, next week, publish an updated edition of its COVID-19 Aviation Business Restart and Recovery document which is in full alignment with ICAO guidance and will help airports navigate this changing landscape as they work towards a sustained recovery.”
To support the global coordination of new measures and underpin recovery, ACI created the Airport Health Accreditation programme which is supported by ICAO. The programme provides an assessment of airport health measures in accordance with the task force recommendations and in alignment with the joint EASA and ECDC Aviation Health Safety Protocol and ACI EUROPE’s Guidelines for a Healthy Passenger Experience at Airports. So far, almost 300 airports around the world have been accredited with hundreds more in the process of being accredited.
“The Airport Health Accreditation programme continues to provide airports with an important way to demonstrate to passengers, staff, regulators, and governments that they are prioritizing health and safety in a measurable, established manner while also validating their own measures and processes,” Luis Felipe de Oliveira said.
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