The government published Covid-19 safety guidance for airlines, airports and air passengers today, confirming the need for all passengers and workers to wear face coverings.
The guidance also confirms passengers will have to check in all baggage but makes no mention of when restrictions on travel to and from the UK will be lifted.
The government’s International Aviation Taskforce drew up the guidelines in collaboration with the industry and public health experts, but they follow closely the protocols already published by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Passengers are advised to wear face coverings, wash hands regularly after touching surfaces, check in all baggage including hand luggage, and remain seated during the flight.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said: “Today’s guidance is a positive next step towards ensuring a safer and more sustainable aviation sector.
“The government’s advice currently remains to avoid all non-essential travel, but today we are taking the necessary steps to ensure a framework is in place for the aviation industry to bounce back when it is safe for restrictions to be lifted.”
Aviation industry bodies welcomed release of the guidance.
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “UK airlines welcome the introduction of these guidelines, having worked in partnership with government on their development.
“The guidelines pave the way for the introduction of air bridges, and there is no reason we shouldn’t be getting clarity from Government on when and how these will be established over the coming days.”
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “The publication of these health measures based on clear medical and scientific advice will play a vital role in rebuilding confidence in air travel.
“These measures must lead to the removal of the quarantine measures at the earliest opportunity and the urgent introduction of air bridges.
“Removing the quarantine and putting in place a more risk-based approach to border health measures is essential if the UK aviation industry is to restart.”
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) chief strategy officer Tim Hawkins said: “This new guidance provides the basis for the restart and recovery of the UK aviation industry.
“It offers clear information for us, our passengers and our airlines on the steps needed to create a safe travel experience.
“With similar protocols being adopted in other countries, and a targeted approach to reopening travel to low-risk countries, we will have the elements in place to get our economy moving again and protect jobs throughout the aviation supply chain.”
The guidance to airlines includes extensive cleaning of aircraft, ensuring sufficient hand-washing and hand sanitiser facilities, reducing face-to-face interactions with passengers, and introducing protocols for symptomatic passengers and staff.
But Ryanair criticised the advice as “rubbish” and said the DfT should “instead focus their efforts on scrapping the UK’s useless visitor quarantine”.
The budget carrier is reccommending its passengers to “minimise” checked-in bags and, “where possible, confine themselves to one or two carry-on bags” which it said “minimises physical contact with other persons”.