The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for the development and deployment of rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic COVID-19 testing for all passengers before departure as an alternative to quarantine measures in order to re-establish global air connectivity.
IATA said it will work through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and with health authorities to implement this solution quickly.
International travel is 92 percent down on 2019 levels. Over half a year has passed since global connectivity was destroyed as countries closed their borders to fight COVID-19.
Some governments have cautiously re-opened borders since then but there has been limited uptake because either quarantine measures make travel impractical or the frequent changes in COVID-19 measures make planning impossible.
“The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travelers before departure,” said IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.
“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,” he said in a statement.
The economic cost of the breakdown in global connectivity makes investing in a border-opening testing solution a priority for governments. The human suffering and global economic pain of the crisis will be prolonged if the aviation industry — on which at least 65.5 million jobs depend — collapses before the pandemic ends.
IATA said the amount of government support needed to avert such a collapse is rising. Already lost revenues are expected to exceed 400 billion dollars and the industry was set to post a record net loss of over 80 billion dollars in 2020 under a more optimistic rebound scenario than has actually unfolded.