Iata has defended its call for “100% testing of all air passengers” for Covid-19 as “achievable” and “realistic”.
Airline association Iata called for “systematic Covid-19 testing for all passengers before departure” this week, saying it is working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and health authorities “to implement this quickly”.
Alexandre de Juniac, Iata director general, insisted: “It is a proposal that is realistic and [makes it] safe to lift quarantine measures.
“Aviation safety is a priority. If we propose something, it is because it is safe.”
Speaking at the World Aviation Festival, de Juniac said: “We believe it is achievable. We are proposing it because we think the testing industry is ready. We think governments are ready to listen.
“We know passengers are ready to be tested if it guarantees they can fly without any quarantine measures.
“The testing industry is ready starting from October. How are we going to convince governments? We are working through ICAO and discussing with governments to implement rapid testing. In parallel, we are working to convince 20 states to implement or trial this new system.”
De Juniac said: “We know there are logistical issues, but we will solve them – as we did for security after 9/11.”
He dismissed a suggestion that opening transatlantic routes should be a priority, saying: “All international routes are quasi closed. We are aiming to implement a system everywhere in the world, by all states.”
The Iata chief said an initial trial “could be from Europe to North America, from the Middle East to Europe, from Asia to America”.
De Juniac insisted: “We need the system to work. We want to save some of the winter season.”
He warned: “We should restart travel quickly otherwise we will see bankruptcies, restructuring and a significant shrinkage of the industry, and an aviation recovery is key if we want a strong economic recovery.
“We strongly need governments to open borders effectively. What is blocking our traffic now is not passenger fear of Covid.”
Even with a restart, de Juniac said the industry would need further financial support from governments. He said: “The situation is so bad, the uncertainty so high, it is highly likely the recovery will be bumpy.
“We asked governments to step in to support. Frankly, they have done a good job in Europe, in North America, in Asia, in the Middle East.
“[But] the longer the crisis lasts, the more the crisis will increase so we probably have to ask governments to extend the financial support.”
De Juniac acknowledged it remains unclear whether passengers, airlines or governments would pay for the Covid tests.
He said: “Normally, when governments impose health restrictions, the World Health Organisation says governments should pay. But the cost of rapid testing is becoming affordable at $6, $8, $10 for a test.
“The discussion about who will pay – governments, passengers, airlines – will happen. I’m not worried about it.”
He insisted: “We have to guarantee safety and to guarantee governments we do not transfer the virus from country A to country B.
“Our surveys show passengers are ready to fly. I’m not worried about that. I am worried about the readiness of governments to take the right measures and in a coordinated way.”
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