The International Air Transport Association (IATA) re-iterated the urgent need to re-open borders with COVID-19 testing and for further financial support for aviation as the COVID-19 shutdown of air transport continues.
Border restrictions, especially quarantine measures, have undermined one of the cornerstones of European development, the free movement of people. As a result, passenger demand has plummeted and 2020 is expected to see passenger numbers down at least 70% compared to 2019 for travel to/from/within Europe. Only 340 million travelers in the region are expected to fly in 2020 compared to close to 1.2 billion that flew in 2019.
This collapse in air traffic has had a devastating impact globally on aviation and the millions of workers in the industry. Research from the Air Transport Action Group estimates some 4.8 million jobs directly connected with air transport are at risk. It is imperative that governments work together to coordinate a plan to restart the industry. In the meantime, additional financial support is needed to help the industry get through the winter.
“Airlines are burning through cash at the rate of $300,000 a minute in the second half of 2020. And much of the government support that has enabled them to remain viable is running out. The prospect of catastrophic job losses is very real. Continued financial support is desperately needed until the industry can get back on its feet,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe, who was speaking recently at the Portugal Air Summit.
The aviation industry has set out a clear vision of systematic pre-departure testing to give governments the confidence to re-open borders. But the European Union’s Council Recommendation fails to set clear conditions for the use of testing to replace quarantine.
“Quarantine of any length will continue the economic destruction of COVID-19. Testing must replace, not shorten, quarantine. And testing costs should be borne by governments, in line with the WHO’s International Health Regulations. Swift and consistent action from European governments is essential if the year-end travel season is to be saved in any form,” said Schvartzman.