Technology will play a big role in successfully restarting air travel while restoring confidence in the safety of aviation, according to global industry body the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

It said the recovery of air travel will be vital to enabling the global economy to bounce back from the Covid-19 crisis.

The pandemic grounded airlines across the world as governments moved to put in place stringent travel restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus. This left the entire aviation industry and related sectors on the brink of collapse.

The sector is crucial for the global economy, facilitating trade and the movement of people. Iata says that in normal times aviation delivers $2.7-trillion in global GDP contribution. Every one of the 25-million employees in the airline industry helps support up to 24 other jobs in the broader global economy, and more than a third of global trade by value moves by air.

In response to questions from Business Day last week, Iata said as part of the global strategy to ensure airline travel restarts safely, it is actively encouraging airports, airlines and other role players to adopt processes that eliminate or limit physical contact, including biometric scanning, e-ticketing and electronic boarding passes, touchless baggage and tagging.  

“Similarly, for air cargo, though we previously advocated the adoption of e-Airwaybills and similar touchless processes to gain efficiencies in processing shipments, these technologies are now also shown to have their own biosecurity benefits.”

Iata said to minimise the time spent at an airport, passengers should complete as much of the check-in process as possible before arriving at the airport. Iata suggests governments should remove regulatory obstacles to enabling such things as mobile or home-printed boarding passes and electronic or home-printed bag tags and personal data capture online.

Iata has previously urged governments to quickly implement the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) global guidelines for restoring air connectivity. The guidelines include physical distancing; wearing of face coverings and masks by passengers and aviation workers; routine sanitation and disinfection; contact tracing for passengers and aviation employees; and testing — if and when real-time, rapid and reliable testing becomes available.

“The universal implementation of global standards has made aviation safe. A similar approach is critical in this crisis so that we can safely restore air connectivity as borders and economies reopen,” said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director-general and CEO.

“Now we are counting on governments to implement the recommendations quickly, because the world wants to travel again and needs airlines to play a big role in the economic recovery. And we must do this with global harmonisation and mutual recognition of efforts to earn the confidence of travellers and air transport workers.”

According to SITA, the global provider of information and telecommunications solutions to the air transport industry, much like the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed the way people move through airports, air travel is set to be reshaped as the health crisis affects all aspects of the aviation industry and challenges established ways of working.

“We believe the deployment of next-generation platforms for future operations will be big to help the industry recover. The industry needs to create responsive and resilient operations to adapt quickly to current and future events,” said Maneesh Jaikrishna, SITA vice-president for the Indian subcontinent, Dubai, and Eastern & Southern Africa.

He said the emerging trends from the pandemic are forging a leaner, safer and smarter air transport industry that is rebuilding trust and confidence in passengers, which will underpin the next decade of travel.



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