ICAO Issues Guidelines for Air Transport Reopening

 - June 2, 2020, 11:38 AM

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

The International Civil Aviation Organization’s Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) on Monday issued a set of guidelines for member states to implement a coordinated plan for reopening the world’s air transport system following the Covid-19 pandemic. But when and under what authority such measures will take effect remains in question, notwithstanding industry leaders’ stated satisfaction with the substance of the report and the speed at which the ICAO/World Health Organization (WHO) task force produced it.

Speaking during an ICAO-led online press briefing Tuesday, International Air Transport Association director general Alexandre de Juniac called on his membership to enforce and respect the guidelines to ensure their effectiveness. “We will contribute heavily because we think it's absolutely key that these measures are uniformly implemented,” he said. “So we will do our job through our members and directly by talking to governments.”

Although conceding the guidelines are not mandatory, ICAO president Salvatore Sciacchitano expressed confidence in the cooperation of the world’s governments. “Let’s remind [people] that ICAO is composed [of] member states,” he noted. “The council that adopted the report is composed [of] 36 representatives of member states. So, in this sense, I am very much confident that the guidelines will be implemented.”

As task force chairman Phillipe Bertoux called the report a “living document” subject to evolution based on new scientific evidence, questions also arose about the ability to police adherence to the guidelines and track efforts in adopting any changes. “We have prepared a kind of certification process and auditing process to see whether or not the airlines and potentially the airports are ready and are implementing the guidelines,” said De Juniac. “So we will have that in our audit kit to see whether we are prepared, what has to be done, and what improvements should be implemented.”

Bertoux added the CART itself will continue beyond its initial mandate of producing the report. “Certainly [the CART] will play a role in deciding how the recommendations will be implemented,” he said. “There will be follow up. The report itself includes the creation of a database within ICAO to report best practices. So, this will serve as a platform to refine regularly the guidelines.”

In the report, ICAO addressed its guidelines for airports, aircraft, crew, and cargo operations. Notably, they do not include recommendations for leaving passenger seats empty to create more social distancing, much to the delight of IATA. “We have explained…that neutralizing seats would lead to either not to fly by airlines or to increase prices by at least 45 to 100 percent depending on the configuration of the aircraft,” said De Juniac. “We think the right compromise is to have reasonable economic conditions and absolutely safe processes to guarantee the safety or our passengers and our air workers.”