The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) on Tuesday endorsed new updates to its ‘Take-off’ guidelines for international air transport, which aim to restore air connectivity and give travelers and crew the confidence they need to fly again following the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.
The CART brings together the expertise of ICAO, public health authorities, individual member states, and industry bodies to support.
The new guidelines provide recommendations for countries to consider adopting per their current local medical status, and on specific priorities including general hygiene, masks and face coverings, health screening and declarations, air passengers with reduced mobility, and the mental health and well-being of aviation workers and passengers.
They also re-acknowledge the sovereignty and authority of each country over its national pandemic recovery priorities, including with respect to the evaluation and use of passenger testing to help alleviate quarantine measures and reconnect destinations globally.
“Countries are urged to follow this updated guidance to align their measures, while upholding each State’s prerogative to implement additional and/or alternative mitigation measures in accordance with their specific needs and circumstances,” underscored ICAO Council President Salvatore Sciacchitano.
The following three recommendations were added to the ICAO’s ‘Take-off’ guidance:
With some states considering the use of testing and with the availability of improved Covid-19 testing technology, there is a need for guidance material to facilitate harmonization. This is being developed in a Manual on Testing and Cross Border Risk Management Measures.
Public Health Corridors or Travel Bubbles
ICAO is asking states which are considering the formation of a Public Health Corridor (PHC, more commonly known as travel bubbles) to actively share information with each other to implement these in a harmonized manner. To facilitate implementation of PHCs, the ICAO Implementation Package (iPack) on establishing a PHC is available to states.
Extending regulatory alleviations until 31 March 2021
While maintaining the highest standards for safety, Covid-19 has forced the industry to temporarily adapt certain regulatory processes, especially those related to staff qualification and training. Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, the ‘Take-off’ guidance recommends that such alleviations should not be extended beyond 31 March 2021. It is essential that states consider flight crew as ‘key workers’ to benefit from PHC and are encouraged to enable access to medical and training facilities. This includes flight simulation training devices used for flight crew to maintain certifications, recency of experience and proficiency for licensed personnel.
Masks and Public Hygiene guidelines updated
Moreover, the guidance on face coverings and medical masks has been updated to allow passengers to travel that cannot tolerate a face covering or medical mask, such as young children or individuals with physical disabilities, respiratory or other medical conditions. It also includes a new section on general hygiene to be followed at airports and on-board aircraft.
IATA welcomes updated ‘Take-off’ guidance
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the publication on the second edition of ‘Take-off’.
“The public should be reassured. The ‘Take-off’ guidance will keep flying safe through this pandemic with recommendations that combine the best advice of public health authorities such as the World Health Organization with the technical expertise of aviation regulators and operators,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
By addressing the need for harmonized COVID-19 testing requirements as part of a multi-layered approach, CART is also contributing to building confidence among governments to manage the risks of COVID-19 importation while removing barriers to travel such as quarantines.
“The aim is to safely reconnect the world and these recommendations are moving us forward,” de Juniac said.
A specialized agency of the United Nations, ICAO was created by governments in 1944 to support their diplomacy on international air transport matters.
ICAO’s Take-off guidance can be found here.