The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for all passengers to be tested for COVID-19 before departure as the organisation looks to steer the recovery of air traffic in the wake of the pandemic.
IATA is urging for the production and deployment of “rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic COVID-19 testing” as an alternative to quarantine measures, aimed at re-establishing global air connectivity. IATA will work through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and with health authorities to implement the solution quickly.
“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travellers before departure. This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work,” he said.
International travel is 92% down on 2019 levels. The economic cost of the breakdown in global connectivity makes investing in a border-opening testing solution a priority for governments. IATA warned that 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.
According to IATA’s public opinion research, there is strong support for COVID-19 testing in the travel process. Some 65% of travellers surveyed agreed that quarantine should not be required if a person tests negative for COVID-19. De Juniac said quarantine measures are “killing the industry’s recovery”.
“Some 83% of travellers in a recent 11-market survey said that they will not travel if there is a chance of being quarantined at their destination. That is a very clear signal that this industry will not recover until we can find an alternative to quarantine.”
Passengers’ support for testing is evident in the following survey results:
- 84% agreed that testing should be required of all travellers.
- 88% agreed that they are willing to undergo testing as part of the travel process.
- In addition to opening borders, public opinion research also indicated that testing will help to rebuild passenger confidence in aviation. Survey respondents identified the implementation of COVID-19 screening measures for all passengers as effective in making them feel safe, second only to mask-wearing.
- And, the availability of rapid COVID-19 testing is among the top three signals that travellers will look to for reassurance that travel is safe (along with the availability of a vaccine or a treatment for COVID-19).
IATA said the evolution of COVID-19 testing is progressing rapidly on all parameters – speed, accuracy, affordability, ease of use and scalability. Deployable solutions are expected in the coming weeks.
“By calling for the establishment of a global approach to COVID-19 testing for all passengers before departure we are sending a clear signal of aviation’s needs. In the meantime, we are gaining practical knowledge from the testing programs that already exist as part of the various travel bubble or travel corridor initiatives around the world. We must continue with these valuable programs which move us in the right direction by building testing experience, facilitating essential travel and demonstrating testing effectiveness,” said de Juniac.
IATA said it does not see COVID-19 testing becoming a permanent fixture in the air travel experience, but it will likely be needed into the medium-term for air travel to reestablish itself.