The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for the deployment of rapid Covid-19 testing for all passengers. The trade body said accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic testing before departure was a preferable alternative to quarantine measures and would allow airlines to re-establish global air connectivity.
Officials said they would work through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and with health authorities to implement this solution quickly.
International travel is 92% down on 2019 levels. Over six months have passed since global connectivity was destroyed as countries closed their borders to fight Covid-19.
Some governments have cautiously re-opened borders since then, but there has been limited uptake because either quarantine measures make travel impractical or the frequent changes in Covid-19 measures make planning impossible.
“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic Covid-19 testing of all travellers before departure,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General. “This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence – and that will put millions of people back to work.”
The economic cost of the breakdown in global connectivity makes investing in a border-opening testing solution a priority for governments. The human suffering and global economic pain of the crisis will be prolonged if the aviation industry – on which at least 65.5 million jobs depend – collapses before the pandemic ends.
The amount of government support needed to avert such a collapse is rising. Already lost revenues are expected to exceed US$400 billion and the industry was set to post a record net loss of over $80 billion in 2020 under a more optimistic rebound scenario than has actually unfolded.
“Safety is aviation’s top priority,” added Alexandre. “We are the safest form of transport because we work together as an industry with governments to implement global standards. With the economic cost associated with border closures rising daily and a second-wave of infections taking hold, the aviation industry must call on this expertise to unite with governments and medical testing providers to find a rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, and scalable testing solution that will enable the world to safely re-connect and recover.”