in Air Transport

African aviation industry urging for safe restart of air services

Posted 17 June 2020 · Add Comment

IATA, the Airports Council International- Africa (ACI Africa) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Regional Offices for African States are urging African governments to implement ICAO’s global guidelines for restoring safe air connectivity.

"ICAO’s Take-off guidance is a global way forward for aviation," said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East.  Image: IATA

 

These guidelines are contained in Takeoff: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis, which was approved by the ICAO Council. They have also been adopted into the African Union’s Restart and Recovery Strategies during and after COVID-19 for the African Aviation Sector. 

 

“Developed based on the latest medical evidence and consistent with health best practices the ICAO Take-off guidance provides governments with a framework for restarting aviation while protecting public health. Governments in Africa are encouraged to implement the guidance urgently and in a harmonized and mutually recognised way to allow aviation to safely start contributing to Africa’s economic recovery post COVID-19. Air connectivity is critical to economic and sustainable development in and across the continent,” said Barry Kashambo, regional director, ESAF speaking on behalf of the ICAO Regional Offices accredited to African States.

 

“ICAO’s Take-off guidance is a global way forward for aviation. Implementation should give governments the confidence to open borders without quarantine, and passengers the confidence to fly. But guidelines mean nothing if they are not implemented. And that is our main message to governments in Africa. Deviations from the guidance and mandatory approaches, especially on quarantine and social distancing, will damage public confidence, make it harder to operate effectively, slow down the industry restart and increase the economic pressures already created by COVID-19. This would be harmful to public health and the economic recovery,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East.

 

“Safety and security remain the industry’s main priority, and both are firmly entrenched into every airport’s operations and corporate culture. Building on this track record, the ICAO Take-off guidance is fully aligned with our industry’s focus on passenger and staff wellbeing. We therefore urge African States to urgently adopt these guidelines so that we can ensure the implementation of consistent, harmonized and effective measures across the region, a prerequisite for passengers to return to air travel in all confidence, and for the swift restoration of air connectivity for the sustainable recovery of the travel, business and tourism sectors on the continent,” said Ali Tounsi secretary general, ACI Africa.

 

Effect of COVID-19 on Aviation in Africa

 

COVID-19 has crippled the air transport industry in Africa. Demand is forecast to fall by 58.5% in 2020 year-on-year – the largest drop of all the regions. Airlines in the region are expected to post a net loss of $2 billion this year as passenger revenues decline by over $6 billion compared to the previous year. Concurrently, African airports are expected to lose 51% of their revenues in 2020, i.e., around $2.2 billion. Job losses in aviation and related industries in the region could reach 3.1 million and GDP supported by aviation could fall by $28 billion. Before the COVID-19 crisis, aviation supported 6.2 million jobs in the region and generated $55.8 billion in GDP.

A Layered and Phased Approach

 

The ICAO Guidance proposes a layered and phased approach to restarting aviation and identifies a set of generally applicable risk-based measures. In line with recommendations and guidance from public health authorities, these will mitigate the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus during the travel process.

 

Measures include: 

 

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

 

    Wearing of face coverings and masks by passengers and aviation 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: updated contact information should be requested as part of the health self-declaration, and interaction between passengers and governments should be made directly though government portals;

 

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

 

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

 

The organisations are also urging states to identify every opportunity where travel restrictions could be lifted, through bilateral or multilateral arrangements among countries - as soon as the epidemiological situation allows for it.

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