IATA Calls For ‘Layered Approach’ to Biosecurity

 - May 19, 2020, 11:07 AM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Tuesday revealed details of its proposed temporary layered approach to biosecurity for restarting passenger flights amid the Covid-19 crisis. IATA has published a so-called roadmap outlining biosecurity protocols such as passenger temperature screening as a more effective alternative to draconian measures such as Spain’s requirement that incoming travelers submit to a 14-day quarantine.

“There is no single measure that will reduce risk and enable a safe restart of flying,” said IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac. “But layering measures that are globally implemented and mutually recognized by governments can achieve the needed outcome. This is the greatest crisis that aviation has ever faced. A layered approach has worked with safety and with security. It’s the way forward for biosecurity as well.”

The proposals would result in a need for governments to collect passenger data in advance of travel, including health information using channels such as those used for eVisas or electronic travel authorization programs.

Layers of productive measures IATA foresees include restricted access to terminal buildings to airport/airline workers and travelers, temperature screening by government staff at terminal entry points, physical distances through all passenger processes, face-covering requirements, increased options for self-service check-in and automated bag drops, re-designed gate areas for boarding, and cleaning of high-touch areas in line with local regulations.

In-flight, IATA foresees requirements for face coverings for all passengers and non-surgical masks for crew, simplified cabin service, and pre-packaged catering to reduce interaction between passengers and crew, prohibitions against queues for lavatories, and strict cabin cleaning requirements.

Upon arrival at the destination airport, IATA recommends automated procedures and customs and border control including the use of mobile applications and biometric technologies, accelerated processing and baggage claims to improve social distancing, and health declarations and contact tracing by governments.  

IATA stressed that its proposals call for only temporary measures that authorities must regularly review, replace, or remove should they become unnecessary.

Although De Juniac noted the current infeasibility of widespread testing of passengers due to the large scale needed and the currently slow turnaround times for results, IATA said it supports testing of passengers when scalable, accurate, and fast results become available. Testing at the start of the travel process would create a “sterile” travel environment that would reassure travelers and governments, it said.

IATA also said it would support the development of immunity passports to segregate so-called no-risk travelers when medical science allows. However, IATA also reiterated its opposition to social distancing onboard aircraft and quarantine measures upon arrival.

“Quarantine measures are obviated by the combination of temperature checks and contract tracing,” IATA said in a statement. “Temperature screening reduces the risk of symptomatic passengers from traveling, while health declarations and contact tracing after arrival reduce the risk of imported cases developing into local chains of transmission.

As for requirements for social distancing on board the aircraft, IATA argues that masks mitigate the risk posed by passengers sitting in close quarters, as do air filtrations systems in airplanes that operate to “hospital operating theater standards” along with the fact that air flows from ceiling to floor, all passengers face forward, and seats provide a barrier to forward/aft transmission.