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Airline Group Begs Governments Not to Impose Quarantine Restrictions

Airline Group Begs Governments Not to Impose Quarantine Restrictions

An aviation trade body that represents around 290 international airlines has denounced the introduction by some governments of quarantine restrictions for new arrivals, claiming instead that its solution for temporary ‘layered’ measures would remove the risk of importing the novel Coronavirus from abroad. Alexandre de Juniac, Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that quarantining passengers for 14-days on arrival would effectively kill off international travel.

IATA has already rejected the idea of social distancing on planes by blocking the middle but has proposed a series of measures that it believes would restore confidence in air travel for both passengers and national governments. Those measures include pre and post-flight temperature checks, the mandatory wearing of face masks and more frequent cabin cleaning.

Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines

Both New Zealand and Australia, however, have seen significant success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 through a series of measures including mandatory quarantine restrictions for all new arrivals. Similar restrictions in Hong Kong, China and elsewhere have also proved to be successful.

But with the likes of the United Kingdom, Spain and France looking to emulate those success stories with quarantine measures of their own, IATA is now hoping to convince governments that there’s a better way forward. “We are proposing a series of measures that we believe will give governments the confidence to re-open their borders,” Juniac explained during a media briefing on Wednesday.

“It is a risk-based layered approach to biosecurity that needs to be coordinated globally. That’s important. The arriving country must be confident of the procedures in place at the departing airport. And travellers will need the reassurance of common measures.”

Several airlines have already thrown their weight behind IATA, with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary describing quarantine orders as “idiotic” and the parent company of British Airways and Iberia saying it would need to revaluate plans to restart flights in July should quarantine measures be put in place.

Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Doha-based Qatar Airways, meanwhile, said quarantine periods “would really destroy the (airline) industry” claiming it “wouldn’t solve the problem” – despite the fact that foreign passengers are currently banned from entering Qatar

On Wednesday, the German government, however, said it would push for an easing of travel restrictions across Europe with aims to restart restriction-free travel by mid-June.

Even without quarantine restrictions, IATA’s best-case scenario predicts international air travel won’t recover to pre-Corona levels until at least 2023. Travel demand could be as much as 32 per cent lower than predicted next year, while by 2025 international travel demand might still be 10 per cent below forecasts.

“The impacts of the crisis on long-haul travel will be much more severe and of a longer duration than what is expected in domestic markets,” Juniac said of the data.

But what now? IATA says it is working with the UN’s civil aviation organisation to create an internationally agreed set of standards that would restore confidence in air travel while avoiding mandatory quarantine orders. The COVID-19 Aviation Recovery Task Force, or CART, has “a very big job to do with little time to waste” Juniac concluded.