The Chief Executive of IATA, the International Air Transport Association, has argued that governments should move away from quarantine and toward pre-flight mass testing in the battle to contain Covid-19. Only then could international travel resume, said Alexandre de Juniac.
“We need to work collaboratively, there has to be strong co-operation between the actors – the airlines, hotels, tourist boards and, of course, governments,” he said. “Border closures mean traffic has stopped – this is particularly the case with quarantine. Quarantine is a blocking point to restarting international traffic in the aviation sector.
“We have to convince governments, all of us in the travel sector, that they should remove quarantine. But we do understand that a state needs to secure the safety of its people, so we suggest the systematic testing of all passengers at departure. Those that test positive do not fly, and those that test negative, they can fly. People are ready to be tested, passengers will be back, and they are ready to travel.”
He argued that technology had advanced to a point where pre-flight mass testing was now possible – which was not the case earlier in the year. With tests costing as little as US$6 a piece, and results in minutes, this was now a viable solution to reopening borders. “Testing will allow us to get levels of transmission so low that the pandemic can be controlled.”
Timing was also critical, with IATA finding that airlines are currently expected to lose around US$85 billion this year. Traffic is set to fall by 65% compared to last year.
Alexandre called for further support for the aviation sector: “We need the intervention of government, or we will die. This can come in the form of regulatory relief, for example the waiver on the use of slots at airports even if they are not used. There can be a reduction of costs, removal of taxes or overflight fees, for example. But we also need massive financial support; governments have injected huge amounts of money into our industry, but we need further support. Without this, we will not have cash enough to make it through the crisis.”
He was speaking at the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh, a hybrid virtual conference developed to explore big ideas and tackle the challenges facing the hospitality industry.