ICAO Adopts New Aviation Recovery Guidelines

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council has adopted a new report and recommendations aimed at restarting the international air transport system and aligning its global recovery. 

The COVID-19 report and guidelines were produced by the Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART). They were developed through broad-based consultations with countries and regional organizations, and with important advice from the World Health Organization and key aviation industry groups including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI World), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), and the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA). 

CART Chairperson Ambassador Philippe Bertoux, the Representative of France to the ICAO Council, noted that the CART guidelines were intended to inform, align and progress the national, regional, and industry-specific COVID-19 recovery roadmaps now being implemented, but not to replace them. 

“These guidelines will facilitate convergence, mutual recognition and harmonization of aviation COVID-19 related measures across the globe,” he emphasized. “They are intended to support the restart and recovery of global air travel in a safe, secure and sustainable way.” 

“In order to be effective, we need to take a layered and especially a risk-based approach. Measures will be implemented or removed as needed based on the wide ranging medical and other factors which will be at play,” he said. 

“Countries and operators need both autonomy and certainty as they take action to get the world flying again,” Bertoux continued, “and the CART guidelines are therefore designed to serve in both these capacities as a common reference, while remaining adaptable. This needs to be understood as a type of ‘living guidance’ which will be continuously updated based on latest risk assessments as we monitor progress and reconnect the world.” 

The CART’s report contains a detailed situational analysis and key principles supported by a series of recommendations focused around objectives for public health, aviation safety and security, and aviation economic recovery. 

The guidance document proposes a phased approach to restarting aviation and identifies a set of generally applicable risk-based measures. These measures include:

  • Physical distancing to the extent feasible and implementation of “adequate risk-based measures where distancing is not feasible, for example in aircraft cabins”;
  • Wearing of face coverings and masks by passengers and aviation workers;
  • Routine sanitation and disinfection of all areas with potential for human contact and transmission;
  • Health screening, which could include pre- and post-flight self-declarations, as well as temperature screening and visual observation, “conducted by health professionals”;
  • Contact tracing for passengers and aviation employees: updated contact information should be requested as part of the health self-declaration, and interaction between passengers and governments should be made directly though government portals;
  • Passenger health declaration forms, including self-declarations in line with the recommendations of relevant health authorities. Electronic tools should be encouraged to avoid paper;
  • Testing: if and when real-time, rapid and reliable testing becomes available.

IATA has urged governments to quickly implement the global guidelines for restoring air connectivity, and ACI World stated that while it believes there is currently no single measure that could mitigate all the risks of restarting air travel, “the harmonization of any new processes and procedures represents the most effective way of balancing risk mitigation with the need to unlock economies and to enable travel”.

Read the CART report and guidance at ICAO

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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