GENEVA — IATA is calling for the development and deployment of rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic COVID-19 testing for all passengers before departure as an alternative to quarantine measures in order to re-establish global air connectivity.
IATA says it will work through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and with health authorities to implement this solution quickly.
IATA notes that international travel is 92% down compared to 2019 levels.
“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travellers before departure,” says Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work.”
He adds 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.
Lost revenues are expected to exceed $400 billion and the industry was set to post a record net loss of over $80 billion in 2020 under a more optimistic rebound scenario than has actually unfolded, says de Juniac.
IATA’s public opinion research revealed strong support for COVID-19 testing in the travel process, he adds. Some 65% of travellers surveyed agreed that quarantine should not be required if a person tests negative for COVID-19.
Some 84% agreed that testing should be required of all travellers, while 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.
Deployable solutions are expected in the coming weeks, says de Juniac. “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.”
IATA 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 re-establish itself, he says. “Many see the development of a vaccine as the panacea for the pandemic. It will certainly be an important step, but even after an effective vaccine is globally recognized, ramping up production and distribution is likely to take many months. Testing will be a much-needed interim solution,” said de Juniac.