The joint statement recognised that airports, airlines and aircraft are different, and said the two organisations were taking a pragmatic approach in implementation – highlighting and giving guidance on the ways in which individual locations and situations can best be re-engineered to meet the new health safety standards. The document underlined that both air passengers and the general population must be assured that filtered air onboard aircraft in flight is safer and cleaner than many of us breathe on the ground. The European Commission had tasked EASA and the ECDC with drawing 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 COVID-19. The European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Valean, commented: “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. 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. The protocol will reassure passengers that it is safe for them to fly and so 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 and on arrival at the final destination. A separate section focuses on the safety of flight crew members. EASA executive director, Patrick Ky, said: “This is the start, rather than the end, of a process to make air travel as safe as possible from the health perspective, in addition to the technical safety which has until now been the main focus of EASA. The next task is for airlines and airport operators to adapt the guidelines to their individual facilities and operations. EASA and ECDC will continue to offer their expertise in this crucial phase.”
ECDC director, Andrea Ammon, added: “This joint work will provide a source of best practice on how airport operators, airlines and national aviation authorities can reduce the risk of virus transmission for passengers as well as the staff and crew who serve them whilst maintaining safe and secure operations”.
The joint statement said the guidelines reflect the best available scientific knowledge currently available and noted that the ECDC is continuously monitoring the situation of COVID-19 and will update the requirements as new epidemiological information, testing and treatment modalities become available. For aircraft and airport operators, significant changes will be required to their processes. The protocol states: “Aeroplane operators and airport operators should cooperate to ensure physical distancing is respected wherever feasible, especially during check-in, security check, pre-boarding and boarding.