LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) – A common set of rules is needed to help facilitate the restart of global air travel, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said, adding that new measures must still allow airline operations to be economically viable.
With no end in sight for the travel bans which have brought flying to a near-halt, airlines across the world are facing deep uncertainty and heavy future losses, and no visibility on how and when operations can restart.
IATA’s Director General Alexandre de Juniac said that he was working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations aviation agency, to develop new safety rules which will enable travel once coronavirus restrictions ease.
He said that a common set of measures needed to be adopted by all.
“A single system, that is absolutely key for the restart of our industry so it is something we are working on,” he told an online press conference.
He said that the sooner the new measures were decided upon, the better, as they were key to allowing the recovery to start.
In creating a new set of rules, however, authorities must be careful not to damage the economics of the industry, he warned.
“What we are building and discussing with the governments or with ICAO and the WHO these days is to restart this industry in a way that is economically manageable,” he said.
He said that if airlines and countries adopted a range of different rules then that would add complexity and cost and ultimately limit aviation’s recovery. There are reports that some countries will require airlines to leave middle seats free, force passengers to fly with masks, or make them quarantine for two weeks after travelling.
IATA earlier said that air cargo measured in tonne-kilometres fell by 15% in March compared to the same month a year earlier as the coronavirus pandemic triggered travel restrictions. It could fall by between 14% and 31% in 2020 as a recession takes hold, the body warned.
(Reporting by Sarah Young, Laurence Frost and Tim Hepher; editing by Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)