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Airlines support global approach to health testing to restore faith in aviation


The three global airline alliances, oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance, have joined ACI World in announcing their support for ICAO’s second-phase Council on Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) report.

The airline groups are urging governments to implement the report guidelines for passenger testing protocols, as well as the adoption of digital health pass technology, so air travel may safely resume.

According to the airlines, government-imposed travel and entry restrictions continue to significantly impact global travel demand.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 testing has emerged as an important part of an end-to-end solution to enable the safe restart of international travel by potentially reducing the reliance on the blunt instrument of blanket quarantines.

Star Alliance CEO, Jeffrey Goh, said: “We welcome the publication of the updated CART report which, among other things, calls for the serious consideration of screening and testing as a means for easing travel and border restrictions, and reviving the travel and tourism industry and the global economy.

“A robust protocol for testing will also provide further evidence to demonstrate that air travel is not a material cause for infections and will pave the way for a framework of trust to be established between countries.”

On behalf of their 58 member airlines, representing over 60% of world airline capacity and carrying over 1.87 billion passengers annually prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the three alliances are calling for a harmonised approach to testing that will form the foundation of a trust framework, as recommended by the ICAO guidelines.

SkyTeam CEO, Kristin Colvile, noted: “Testing regimes and trials of digital health passes have identified means to restoring confidence and reopening borders, complementing the layer upon layer of passenger safety measures already implemented by airlines and airports worldwide.

“Aviation supports millions of jobs around the world and drives international commerce, trade and tourism. Urgent action is needed to adopt testing and technology to mitigate COVID risks and safely and quickly revive international air travel.”

The recent digital ‘health pass’ trials, such as Common Pass, are presenting a strong case for using digital technology to deliver harmonised standards in the validation and verification of accredited passenger health data.

The alliances support technical solutions that provide a consistent, scalable and affordable way to declare passenger health data that is simple to implement as part of the customer journey, with processes initiated pre-travel to reduce passenger inconvenience at airports.

Rob Gurney, CEO of oneworld, said: “With extensive travel restrictions creating much uncertainty for customers, testing can play a role in enabling the safe restart of travel.

“Any solution used in declaring passenger health data should be consistent, scalable and cost effective – this will provide clarity and confidence to customers, airlines and other stakeholders as international travel resumes.”

ACI World director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, commented: “We welcome the new guidance from the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force which will help to establish a globally-harmonised approach to health measures and testing.

“The overriding issue is one of testing – we need an agreed approach to testing as a means of facilitating safe travel instead of the restrictive quarantine measures that are blunting the industry’s recovery efforts.

“The acceptance and implementation of measures by member states will reinforce the alignment of the sector with requirements from individual countries’ health authorities, providing the confidence we need to safely restart operations and contribute to the global economy recovery.”

ACI World is also anticipating the publication of the Testing and Cross-Border Risk Management Measures Guidance Manual being produced by ICAO’s Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA).

“The manual will be an invaluable contribution to the industry as it will provide countries with a risk management framework for evaluating testing options and factors to consider in implementing testing,” added de Oliveira.

“This will guide countries in doing away with quarantine to implement flexible and risk-based testing which will ensure that passengers recognise that their health and safety is the priority and the recovery of air travel can be accelerated.”

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