On June 1 the ICAO Council adopted a new report and recommendations aimed at restarting the international air transport system and aligning its global recovery.

The report, named ‘Take-off: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis’, provides the framework of risk-based temporary measures for air transport operations during the COVID-19 crisis. It proposes a gradual approach to restarting commercial aviation using generally applied measures created by using the recommendations and guidance from public health authorities, to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus when travelling.

Its measures include:

Physical distancing, where feasible, and the implementation of “adequate risk-based measures where distancing is not possible, for example in aircraft cabins”;

Wearing of face coverings and masks by passengers and workers;

Routine sanitation and disinfection of all areas with potential for human contact and transmission;

Health screening, which could include pre- and post-flight self-declarations, as well as temperature screening and visual observation “conducted by health professionals”;

Contact tracing for passengers and aviation employees: contact information should be requested as part of the health self-declaration, and interaction between passengers and governments should be directly though government portals;

Passenger health declaration forms, including self-declarations in line with recommendations of health authorities. Electronic tools should be encouraged, to avoid paper;

Testing: if and when real-time, rapid and reliable testing is available.

The report and guidelines were produced by the Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART).

They were developed through consultations with national and regional organisations, together with advice from the World Health Organization and key aviation industry groups. The latter included the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI World), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA).

ICAO Council president, Salvatore Sciacchitano, said: “The world looked to the ICAO Council to provide the high-level guidance that governments and industry needed to begin restarting international air transport and recovering from COVID-19. We have answered this call with the delivery of this report and with its recommendations and Take-off guidelines will now align public and private sector actions and mitigations as we get the world flying again, in full accordance with the latest and most prudent medical and traveller health advice available to us.”

CART chairperson ambassador, Philippe Bertoux, the representative of France to the ICAO Council, noted that the CART guidelines were intended to inform, align and progress the national, regional, and industry-specific COVID-19 recovery roadmaps now being implemented, but not to replace them.

Take-off guidelines will align public and private sector actions and mitigations as we get the world flying again Salvatore
Sciacchitano, ICAO

ICAO’s June 1 acceptance of the Takeoff framework underlined the rules air carriers need to meet and gave the green light for a gradual reintroduction of passenger services Korean Air

“These guidelines will facilitate convergence, mutual recognition and harmonisation of aviation COVID-19-related measures across the globe. They are intended to support the restart and recovery of global air travel in a safe, secure and sustainable way. In order to be effective, we need to take a layered and especially a risk-based approach. Measures will be implemented or removed as needed based on the wide-ranging medical and other factors which will be at play,” he said.

He added: “Countries and operators need both autonomy and certainty as they take action to get the world flying again and the CART guidelines are therefore designed to serve in both these capacities as a common reference, while remaining adaptable. This needs to be understood as a type of ‘living guidance’, which will be continuously updated based on latest risk assessments as we monitor progress and reconnect the world.”

IATA welcomed the new initiative. Responding to ICAO’s announcement, IATA’s director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said: “The universal implementation of global standards has made aviation safe.

A similar approach is critical in this crisis so that we can safely restore air connectivity as borders and economies re-open. The Takeoff guidance document was built with the best expertise of government and industry. Airlines strongly support it. Now we are counting on governments to implement the recommendations quickly, because the world wants to travel again and needs airlines to play a key role in the economic recovery. And we must do this with global harmonisation and mutual recognition of efforts to earn the confidence of travellers and air transport workers. This layering of measures should give travellers and crew the confidence they need to fly again. And we are committed to working with our partners to continuously improve these measures as medical science, technology and the pandemic evolve.”