World in motion
ACI World urges the world’s governments to back COVID-19 testing as an alternative to quarantine measures, writes external relations manager, Bojana Jeremic.
The airport sector, as an integral part of the global aviation ecosystem, has been among the industries most heavily affected by the global pandemic.
Airports around the world are adjusting to the complexities of the ‘new normal’ and are quickly adapting to passengers’ changing needs and expectations. This effort is designed to help travellers and staff feel reassured that their health and safety remains the industry’s overriding priority.
ACI World’s most up-to-date estimates show the pandemic will result in a reduction of more than 5.6 billion passengers with a decline in total airport revenues on a global scale of more than $104.5 billion (figures in US Dollars) for 2020.
With many aircraft still grounded, coupled with ongoing inconsistent quarantine measures, the current projections on international market segments signal that passenger traffic volumes will likely only return to the levels recorded in 2019 by 2024.
The inconsistent and ever-changing border restrictions, along with confusion about quarantine and test requirements, continues to cause frustration for both businesses and travellers.
To this day, many international borders remain closed and international passengers are still subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine, despite the widespread implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Take-off Guidance via the Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART) document.
With quarantine requirements severely limiting the recovery of the aviation industry, urgent and appropriate government action is required to establish globally harmonised, risk-based, practical measures to foster a co-ordinated recovery whilst providing reassurance to travellers.
Governments must look for risk based approaches, leveraging multiple layers of protection to mitigate the risk of transmission, such as COVID-19 testing, travel bubbles or public health corridors as a means to restart air travel.
An effective COVID-19 test has the potential to be a useful risk equalisation measure where the rate of new infections in the origin country is significantly higher than in the destination country. If a test is required, it should be a recognised test such as a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test carried out in the 48 hours prior to travel.
A risk-based and proportionate approach to testing could help States to avoid taking a binary approach (open vs closed) to travel restrictions, including the need for quarantine, and balance the need for economic recovery.
As different methods of rapid testing become available, detection of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic travellers will become more possible, particularly from locations perceived to be at a higher risk.
Although more work still needs to be done on the various different types of tests, how they are used, as well as their overall effectiveness, ACI strongly believes that a widespread adoption of COVID-19 tests prior to travelling will allow governments to reopen borders safely, reinstall global connectivity and passenger confidence, and kickstart the global recovery of the aviation industry.
To help airports in restoring public confidence in air travel, and to promote global implementation of best practice, ACI has launched the Airport Health Accreditation Programme (AHA).
The programme recognises airports that are committed to providing high standards of health and hygiene that accord with globally recognised standards, and prioritising the health and welfare of travellers, staff, and the public.
The health accreditation procedures are in accordance with ICAO Council Aviation Restart Task Force recommendations and in alignment with the joint European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Aviation Health Safety Protocol and as well as ACI Europe’s Guidelines for a Healthy Passenger Experience at Airports.
Governments and industry regulators will need to ensure that any new processes that they require airports to introduce are reviewed in line with changing data and medical evidence and ensure that they remain aligned with those deployed through other modes of transport and the wider society.
The world is changing fast and, while the pandemic’s impact on the industry has been far greater than what we have previously experienced, recovery will once again require heightened levels of collaboration and partnership among industry stakeholders.
Airports can, and will be, one of the main drivers of aviation’s recovery. However, they cannot do this alone. The industry is stronger together and by coming together it will lay the foundations of recovery to ensure that aviation can deliver the economic and social benefits to the local, national, and global communities that it serves.
Hygiene category added to ASQ programme
ACI World is to introduce a new ‘hygiene’ award category to its Airport Service Quality (ASQ) awards this year to reflect the changing landscape in customer experience introduced in response to COVID-19.
As airports begin to restart operations, understanding the changing needs and expectations of passengers will be crucial in reassuring them that their health and safety remain the top priority.
The pandemic’s effects vary significantly between regions, therefore ACI has adapted its global ASQ programme for the collection and measurement of data this year, which informs the awards to be presented in 2021.
As a result, ACI has temporarily removed the ‘Most Improved’, ‘Best Airport Customer Service’, ‘Best Airport Environment and Ambiance’, ‘Best Airport Infrastructure and Facilitation’, and the ‘Arrivals Award’ categories from this year’s awards, although ‘The Best Airports by Region and Size’ will remain.
The new Hygiene Award category will be based on the score of three new safety and hygiene questions that will be added to the tablet version of the ASQ Departure Survey in the fourth quarter of this year.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, travellers are demanding new services and procedures based on their specific needs, requirements, and concerns and airports are seeking to adapt their infrastructure, adopt new technology, and streamline their processes to best match what customers want,” says ACI World director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira.
“The new ASQ Awards will recognise those airports that best listen to their customers and respond in a way that meets today’s changing expectations to provide a hygienic and safe airport environment.”
This year’s awards are being delivered in partnership with global travel technology company, Amadeus.
“This is just the beginning of an enduring and fruitful partnership between ACI and Amadeus in support of airports and the wider aviation ecosystem and illustrates our intention to work together with the industry to deliver the sustainable social and economic development to the communities we serve,” notes de Oliveira.
“Partnerships like this are important to move the industry forward during the recovery process and beyond.”