Introducing COVID-19 Testing Into the Air Travel Process
In a recent press release, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) discussed criteria should COVID-19 testing become an integral part of the air travel process. As international air travel starts to cautiously open up again, rules for COVID-safe travel are far from uniform. As in previous statements, the organization urges governments to follow a unified approach to reconnecting air traffic between countries based on The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) guidance known as “Takeoff”. ICAO’s guidelines aim to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and import of the virus via air travel.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO stressed that, “Airlines are committed to reducing the risks of COVID-19 transmission via air travel and COVID-19 testing could play an important role. But it must be implemented in line with ICAO’s global re-start guidance with the aim of facilitating travel. Speed, scale and accuracy are the most critical performance criteria for testing to be effectively incorporated into the travel process.”
IATA’s testing criteria are as follows:
- Testing should be quick and provide results in an hour or less.
- Testing should only be performed by professional healthcare workers.
- Testing needs to be fast and able to facilitate several hundred tests per hour. Saliva samples are preferred over nasal or throat swabs, which are more invasive and less acceptable to travelers.
- The accuracy of tests needs to be extremely high.
- Passengers should ideally be tested prior to departure and data transmitted electronically to the destination’s authorities. This could be handled similarly to the pre-clearing process with electronic visas.
- Tests should not be an additional financial burden to travelers or airlines, and should be provided by governments free of charge or at cost.
- Should testing be mandated on arrival, airlines should not bear the responsibility of repatriation or medical expenses if passengers test positive.
More African Countries Resuming International Flights
African nations swiftly reacted to the outbreak of the pandemic by closing their borders and suspending international travel. Now, they are slowly opening up to cross-border air travel again. Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Zambia have already resumed commercial flights. Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo, all members of the Economic Community of West African States, are expected to open their airspace on July 21, 2020. Now Kenya is the latest African country announcing the resumption of international flights as of August 1, 2020.
Sources: https://www.afro.who.int/news/who-urges-strong-covid-19-safety-measures-african-countries-resume-air-travel https://www.flightglobal.com/networks/kenya-to-reopen-international-flights-on-1-august/139174.article
AirAsia is Reporting Increased Demand
The AirAsia Group recently announced that it sold 41,000 seats in a single day on June 23, 2020 across its group network. At the same time, the group’s website traffic grew by 170%. AirAsia operates 24 hubs in six countries (Malaysia – 5 hubs, Thailand – 6, Indonesia – 5, India – 4, Philippines – 3, Japan – 1). The group’s overall load factor averaged 50% with AirAsia Malaysia reporting a load factor of 70% on June 23rd.
Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, AirAsia’s Group CEO is encouraged by the positive trend. He said, “We are aiming our flight frequencies to around 50% of our pre-COVID operations and we look forward to resuming all domestic routes in the coming weeks and months to cater to increased demand.” The carrier is currently operating 152 daily flights across the region. The most booked routes are Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Hat Yai (Thailand), Manila to Puerto Princesa and Davao (the Philippines), Delhi to Srinagar and Bengaluru to Hyderabad (India), and Jakarta to Denpasar and Medan (Indonesia).
AirAsia is following the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization, and works with local governments and health organizations to keep its staff and passengers safe.