After passenger resuming, a whirlwind services thanks few to are ICAO’s months, gradually ‘Take Off’ agreement on how the industry can restrict the spread of COVID-19.
Statistics from IATA and Flightradar24 show April as the industry’s low point. The ‘hardest day’ was April 21, when global traffic was down 94% year-on-year. It would have been lower still, but for repatriation flights and the beginning of the Chinese domestic recovery from February. Let us hope we never see such statistics again.
Airports and airlines are racing to meet guidelines on personal protective equipment (PPE), health testing and social distancing, but obstacles remain – the UK Government has confirmed a 14-day arrival quarantine. Mentions of ‘air bridges’ or ‘bubbles’ linking nations or regions where the virus appears to be under control, give hope for the ‘managed’ return of international air travel. However, I wonder about the risk of these links becoming politicised, and their creation being dependent on ‘friendship’ between governments.
And how will passenger confidence be affected? Thinking back to the 9/11 attacks (2001) and the liquid ban in aircraft cabins (2006), most of the regulations introduced then are still with us. Largely because of those restrictions, the industry has spent years focusing on ‘improving the passengers’ experience’. That ‘experience’ is about to take a huge step backwards. Will PPE and social distancing be part of travel for years? While the ‘Take Off’ guidelines (see page 6) suggest removing such restrictions as soon as practical, that will depend on international agreements, where politics may again play a part.
Ultimately, when things start moving again and governments can better judge the implications, who will bear the costs of isolating and perhaps repatriating passengers who fail health checks upon arrival? These questions are probably already being asked within administrations around the world.
Until next time…