Guidelines to assure the health safety of air travellers and aviation personnel, once airlines resume regular flight schedules following the severe disruption caused by Covid-19, were released on Wednesday by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
The guidelines included in the EASA/ECDC “COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol” are aligned with recommendations provided by both the airline and airport sector for a layered approach of temporary measures to protect public health while allowing viable air services to help drive the European economic recovery.
The European Commission assigned EASA and ECDC to draw up the guidelines, as part of a wider package of measures to prompt the safe restoration of transport services and connectivity following the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The guidelines place paramount importance on health safety at every stage of the end-to-end passenger journey.
Some overarching principles apply throughout:
- observe physical distancing wherever possible
- wear a medical face mask to protect other passengers
- practice scrupulous and frequent hand hygiene
- respiratory etiquette
- declare their COVID-19-related status before receiving their boarding pass
“Passengers have to have confidence that taking to the skies again in a confined space with other people poses the minimum possible risk to their health,” European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean said.
According to EASA and ECDC, air passengers and general population have to be assured that filtered air on airplanes is safer and cleaner than many of us breathe on the ground.
“We relied on our specialists from EASA and ECDC to define a set of concrete measures for the safe resumption of air travel within the EU,” Valean said, adding that the protocol is aimed to reassure passengers that it is safe for them to fly and to help the industry recover from the effects of this pandemic.
The guidance examines each phase of the passenger journey, and specifies the actions that need to be taken or measures put in place in six travel segments:
- before arrival at the airport
- in the departure terminal
- when boarding
- in flight
- in transit
- on arrival at the final destination
Passengers themselves are also expected to take personal responsibility. For example, passengers who have COVID-19 compatible symptoms (fever, cough, sudden loss of smell, shortness of breath) or who are aware that they have come in contact with a COVID-19 case should not arrive at the airport or should postpone their travel to protect their fellow passengers.
Moreover, passengers will also be asked to provide contact information to allow for “track and trace” if someone on a particular flight later tests positive for COVID-19.
Those not travelling will need to say goodbye to the passenger before they enter the terminal building, except in defined special cases.
A separate section of the aviation health safety protocol focuses on the safety of flight crew members.
Also, for aircraft and airport operators, significant changes will be required to their processes.
EASA and ECDC said the guidelines are based on scientific expertise and reflects the best available scientific knowledge currently available.
“The assurance of health safety is a critical factor for the resumption of commercial air travel,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky.
“This protocol is the blueprint for safe air travel, from the moment of arrival at the departure airport right through to leaving the airport at the destination.”
ECDC is continuously monitoring the situation of COVID-19 and will update the guidelines as new epidemiological information, testing and treatment modalities become available.