Stock airport passengers
Winning them back can be less time consuming if airlines and airports were allowed to do systemic testing on COVID-19 before the flights. Governments are finally veering towards that decision, says IATA. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Airlines and governments are making a welcome shift towards systemic testing and which will speed up recovery for the air travel industry, according to IATA. This will replace the more time-consuming quarantining measures most countries have in place.

“More airlines are introducing testing as a service for customers to satisfy specific entry requirements, or to avoid quarantine," said Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the air industry grouping. "Some airlines are running trials to collect data on the efficiency of testing - some have also introduced testing programmes.”

There are “advanced proposals” to open the New York - London route with pre-departure testing of all passengers, and the European Union is looking at proposals for testing at various levels to open Europe's internal borders to travel, de Juniac added.

“These initiatives are providing valuable experience in the use of testing to travel safely and prevent COVID-19,” IATA’s head said. “The next step is agreement among governments on the standards needed for them to open their borders with testing as a replacement for quarantine measures”

Financial trauma

Last week, IATA predicted that airlines would "burn through" $77 billion of their reserves over the last six months of this year to pay off the higher expenses related to aircraft maintenance as well as meet wage commitments.

They will also be impacted by the stopping of government financial backing that helped flight operators stay afloat during the first-half of the year. “Most aid packages were put together, assuming that the industry would be in recovery by now, but the recovery has not happened and airlines will struggle to make it through the normally weak northern hemisphere winter season,” said de Juniac.

Airports are hurting

The airport industry is anticipating a 59.6 per cent reduction in passenger volumes, leading to a revenue losses of $104.5. billion dollars this year alone. “This is an existential crisis -irports, airlines, and commercial partners need direct and strict financial assistance to protect essential operations and jobs,” said Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director-General of Airport Council International (ACI).

ACI has also called for universal testing to get rid of the quarantine system that has weighed on global travel demand. “We want an internationally agreed recognized approach to testing passengers that is fast, practical, accurate, low-cost, easy-to-use and supported by public health authorities,” de Oliveira added.