This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
The EASA will recommend that passengers and crew wear medical face masks for the duration of a flight—except during security checks or border control—and those masks replaced after four hours of wear with a safe disposal process in place, according to the draft EASA "Covid-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol" obtained by AIN. The technical operational guidance for the management of airline passengers in relation to the pandemic is expected to be formally released in the coming weeks and is part of the European Commission’s roadmap to progressively restoring transport services.
The protocol recommends that airlines and airport operators cooperate to maintain physical distancing—of a minimum of 1.5 meters and ideally 2 meters—as much as possible during check-in, security check, pre-boarding, and boarding. Where boarding is performed using a boarding bridge, boarding by rows should be considered, starting with the furthest row from the aircraft doors used in the embarkation process. Passengers should minimize the amount of hand luggage taken into the cabin to expedite boarding and disembarking. No more than one piece of hand luggage for each person should be allowed, and operators should promote the carriage of luggage in the cargo compartments by implementing incentive policies.
To reduce the residual risk of an infected passenger transmitting the virus to other passengers onboard an aircraft, airlines should minimize onboard service and put measures into place to prevent passengers from standing in aisles or galleys to use a lavatory. Subject to sufficient lavatories onboard, the airlines should reserve a lavatory, preferably the closest one to the flight deck, for crew use only.
Aircraft operators using the recirculation of cabin air are recommended to use HEPA filters. When HEPA filters are installed, recirculation fans should not be stopped but increased fresh air flow should be used by selecting high-pack flow whenever possible.
EASA is not recommending airlines fly with empty middle seats for social distancing. “Where allowed by the passenger load, cabin configuration and mass and balance requirements, airlines should ensure, to the extent possible, physical distancing among passengers," the draft protocol said. "Family members and individuals traveling together as part of the same household can be seated next to each other. The seat allocation process should be modified accordingly.”
Additionally, EASA recommends that in the event physical distancing cannot be guaranteed because of the passenger load, seat configuration, or other operational constraints, passengers and crew members should adhere at all times to other preventive measures including strict hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette and should wear a face mask. Airlines are requested to further adjust the ventilation system of the cabin and reduce downtimes to minimize the risk of contamination.”
In mapping out the 22-page protocol, EASA cooperated with the European Commission and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.