European Aviation Associations and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) agreed to strengthen efforts to ensure a consistent and safe travel experience for passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated travel restrictions have had a devastating impact on air traffic and put at risk millions of jobs that rely on air connectivity. As Europe seeks to reopen, it is essential that operations are marked by consistent implementation of passenger safety procedures across the continent.
EASA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have developed protocols for the measures airports, airlines and operators should adopt to ensure a safe return to normal operations.
The guidelines address the entire journey from the passenger’s perspective, at the departure airport, on board of the aircraft and at arrival. They contain specific, complementary measures devised to ensure the protection of passengers and crews against the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Passengers are required to take personal responsibility, for example by not even coming to the airport if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Airlines and airports have been asked to follow enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures as well as following guidance to ensure the best possible ventilation while on-board the aircraft. The quality of air on-board is one of the most important mitigating factors against spread of coronavirus, and most aircraft have high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters installed which sterilise the air to operating theatre quality. Further measures, such as changes to in-flight service, have been recommended to reduce the risk of transmission through contaminated surfaces. Similar recommendations have been issued by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in its Take-off guidance.
To strengthen the implementation of these measures, Airlines for Europe (A4E), the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have signed a cooperation agreement with EASA to promote the harmonised and coordinated implementation of the EASA/ECDC protocols by industry, governments and travellers.
A complementary Charter programme has been set up by EASA to monitor the implementation of the guidelines and provide feedback. Over 60 organisations serving millions of passengers have signed up to the charter on a voluntary basis.
“The aviation industry has worked closely with health authorities and regulators worldwide to develop protocols to safely restart operations. The ICAO Take-off guidelines set an international framework for safeguarding public health, and in Europe, the EASA/ECDC Protocols are similarly aligned. This mutual cooperation agreement with EASA will promote a coordinated implementation of the operational guidelines in order to facilitate the recovery of air travel,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.
“This crisis has revealed the importance of cooperation, communication and a harmonised approach. The latter continues to prove challenging both for airlines and our passengers, as Member States implement differing health and travel measures,” said Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director, Airlines for Europe (A4E). “This agreement promotes further cohesion amongst our aviation community in Europe and will ensure that the most effective protocols are in place, particularly as passenger numbers rise and improved COVID testing capabilities enter the pipeline.”
EBAA Secretary-General, Athar Husain Khan commented. “We’re delighted to be joining forces with the rest of the aviation community to formalise our cooperation and communication at this critical time. The return to normal for travel hinges on harmonised safety and operational guidelines for passengers and business aviation operators alike. Today’s agreement is an important step in accelerating the recovery of the European air transport sector.”
“Building on the EASA/ECDC guidelines and the wider Return to Normal Operations (RNO) project initiated by EASA, this cooperation agreement is another step forward in ensuring that harmonised and robust protocols and processes are delivered across Europe,” said Montserrat Barriga, Director General of ERA. “This will further help to give certainty to ERA’s airline members, ensuring the highest level of safety and give enhanced confidence to consumers.”
“The endorsement of our guidelines by IATA, A4E, EBAA and ERA establishes these procedures as the standard for the European aviation industry,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “Consistent implementation of the guidelines is critical to rebuilding passenger confidence, which is in turn fundamental for a decision to travel by air, whether for leisure or for business.”
“It is important that national authorities play their part in ensuring the guidelines are followed and avoid unilaterally introducing measures which create inconsistencies,” he added. “All industry players, every employee and the travelling public themselves need to follow the same guidelines at every step of the journey from airport to destination, so as to create a safe environment for all.”