Last month we started to see some positive and encouraging developments all over the world with more countries opening their borders and a scant few international flights being added to the schedule. Indeed, the passenger numbers are far away from what we saw in 2019, however we must all work together, governments, airlines, and airports to pave the way for continued recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the global aviation ecosystem hard and most agree that the world we are entering will be fundamentally different from what existed before.
Airports and airlines are adjusting to the complexities of the ‘new normal’ and are quickly adapting to passengers’ changing and evolving needs and expectations in an effort to help them feel reassured that their health and safety remains the industry’s overriding priority.
Although the response to the COVID-19 crisis has differed across the world, the pandemic has served as a reminder that we are stronger together and that we need a globally-harmonized and consistent approach to recovery.
Harmonization in our industry will be vital considering the importance of aviation for the recovery for the global economy. For that reason, governments, airports, airlines and all other connected business need to be united and focus on the common denominators – key principles, policies, and procedures – as we embark on the long road to recovery.
Along with the restrictions on travel, the global economy is approaching a recession with a loss of income and rapid rise in unemployment across the world. This will affect people’s capacity to fly but, coupled with this will be a reduction in the willingness to fly due to fears around the transmission of disease and it will take time to regain consumer confidence in air travel.
The current situation presents airports with an important opportunity to think strategically and take a systematic approach to understand, evaluate, and adapt to meet changing expectations in a way that encourages people to travel again.
The ability to adapt quickly and demonstrate that they are providing passengers with a safe, secure, and hygienic experience will be key for airports in restoring public confidence in air travel.
While there is a long journey ahead, there are some promising signs of recovery on the horizon as we start to restart our industry from a stand-still.
After a devastating month of April for the aviation industry, when global air travel came to a virtual halt, our data shows early improvement and incremental recovery in the domestic passenger traffic in China, within Europe, and domestically in the United States.
As countries around the world begin to ease some travel restrictions, we are also starting to see a slight increase in aircraft movements. Carriers are slowly increasing their flight schedules for the summer months while remaining cautiously optimistic that more passengers will be keen to travel by air again.
While these numbers are encouraging, it is still early days.
The focus for airports is on protecting the health and welfare of passengers and staff, as well as to minimize the opportunities for dissemination of disease.
To help restore public confidence in air travel, ACI has launched the Airport Health Accreditation programme to assist airports by assessing new health measures and procedures introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic against global standards.
The health accreditation procedures are in accordance with ICAO Council Aviation Restart Task Force recommendations and in alignment with the joint European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Aviation Health Safety Protocol and ACI EUROPE’s Guidelines for a Healthy Passenger Experience at Airports.
The programme recognizes airports that prioritize cleanliness and safety at their facilities to minimize risk from coronavirus and other infections agents in accordance with industry guidance.
It enables airports to demonstrate to passengers, staff, regulators, and governments that they are prioritizing health and safety in a measurable manner while also validating their own measures and processes.
I would like to congratulate Istanbul Airport for being the first airport to be accredited through our new Airport Health Accreditation programme.
I am very impressed in how the industry is swiftly adapting to new realities and introducing new protocols based on globally consistent criteria. This accreditation will be crucial in demonstrating to the traveling public that airports are doing everything that they can to help restore public confidence in air travel.
This is not the first time that the aviation industry has been profoundly impacted by ground-breaking events. The world is changing fast and, while COVID-19’s impact on the industry has been far greater than what we have previously experienced, recovery will once again require heightened levels of collaboration and partnership among industry stakeholders.
Airports cannot do it alone – we are all in this together.
Greater levels of global collaboration between us and our global partners will be essential for the industry to successfully sustain a balanced recovery and come out of this stronger together.