The International Air Transport Association (Iata) is calling for the global development and rollout of accurate and affordable Covid-19 testing for all flight passengers pre-departure.
Iata said a global approach was needed to rapidly put in place a system that was easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic as an alternative to quarantine measures to restart the aviation sector.
It said it would be working through the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) and health authorities to implement a solution quickly.
The plea came as Iata revealed the results of its 4,700 online consumer interviews in 11 markets between August 25 and 31, showing 84% of passengers agreed testing should be required of all travellers.
Its public opinion poll showed 88% of respondents were willing to undergo testing as part of the travel process.
In the poll, 65% of respondents agreed quarantine should not be required if a person tests negative for Covid-19.
The research also indicated that testing, alongside mask-wearing and the availability of a vaccine, would help to build consumer confidence in aviation, making passengers feel safe.
Iata director general and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac, who earlier this month called on governments to ‘do better’ to restart travel, said: “The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic Covid-19 testing of all travellers before departure.
“This will give governments the confidence to open their borders without complicated risk models that see constant changes in the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work.”
International travel is currently 92% down on 2019 levels, according to Iata, which said the “human suffering and global economic pain” would be prolonged if the aviation industry, which employs at least 65.5 million globally, collapses before the pandemic ends.
Iata estimated that lost revenues were expected to exceed US $400 billion and said the industry had been set to post a record net loss of more than US $80 billion in 2020 under a more optimistic scenario than the one that has actually played out.
De Juniac described testing as an “interim” measure rather than a long-term fixture in the air travel experience.
He added: “With the economic cost associated with border closures rising daily and a second-wave of infections taking hold, the aviation industry must call on this expertise to unite with governments and medical testing providers to find a rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, and scalable testing solution that will enable the world to safely re-connect and recover.”
Iata said it recognised the “many practical challenges” to integrating testing into the travel process and establishing protocols to manage it on a large-scale across the industry.
De Juniac said: “The Icao process is critical to aligning governments to a single global standard that can be efficiently implemented and globally recognized. Airlines, airports, equipment manufacturers and governments will then need to work in total alignment so that we can get this done quickly.”