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Coronavirus: UK government aviation guidelines

The UK government published coronavirus aviation guidelines under the Department for Transport back in July 2020 which detailed measures that operators should implement to protect staff and passengers as air travel returns.

According to the UK government, the International Aviation Taskforce (IAT), public health experts and the airline industry have allied. The IAT has outlined a structure for the industry to operate under once the UK government lifts travel restrictions which should restore jobs while supporting trade and travel opportunities.

The new regulations focus on the health and safety of passengers and staff in correlation with international best practice.

Along with physical measures, passengers will receive advice on how to travel safely and adhere to social distancing measures. Guidelines will apply to all aspects of the travel experience, including hygiene and epidemiology, safely navigating an airport, boarding and arriving in the destination country.

According to the IAT, practical measures will include wearing face masks, maintaining basic hygiene, checking in all luggage at check-in desks, and avoiding leaving seats during the flight.

Airline operators should support staff by actively encouraging safe work practices, such as disinfecting aircraft, increasing sanitary awareness, limiting face-to-face communication with passengers, and introducing special procedures for those showing symptoms.

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, praised the new guidelines, stating that it is “a positive step towards ensuring a safer and more sustainable aviation sector.”

Although the guidelines currently exist for non-essential travel, Mr Shapps commended the government for putting the necessary steps in place to ensure the aviation industry rebounds when it is safe to do so.

Up until late, the UK government has faced criticism for its lack of support for the aviation industry by airline executives and industry officials. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has introduced loan schemes through the Bank of England (BoE), Time to Pay flexibilities and a furlough scheme to prevent widespread job loss but the officials have stated it’s not enough.

The aviation industry is one of the worst-hit by the coronavirus, and major airlines and airports across the UK have said they can no longer protect jobs.

Aircraft

Travel ban will increase unemployment levels

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), previously noted that the UK government’s quarantine regulations would dissuade air travel and “wreak more damage on jobs and the economy.” The news announced last week that holidays abroad would be illegal before 30th June and would incur a GBP 5,000 fine will also add to struggles within the aviation industry.

Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s regional vice president for Europe, said:

“The government must scrap the quarantine plans, or implement travel corridors as soon as possible” to save the aviation industry.

Under the government’s current regulation on travel, all UK arrivals must quarantine for 10 days, though travel is currently only permitted for essential purposes.

Industry officials warned that the 10-day quarantine plan will put the UK at a competitive disadvantage if this was to continue as other countries open up and resume travel, which would cause further damage to the UK economy.

Heathrow Airport have introduced pay cuts to staff to help recover financial losses experienced during the coronavirus pandemic. Figures revealed that passenger numbers plummeted by 97% in May compared to the same month the previous year and have remained low due to continued travel restrictions.

The airport has already axed 30% of managerial roles, but chief executive John Holland-Kaye said that efforts to protect frontline employees are “no longer sustainable”.

Gatwick airport and leading UK airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have all announced mass redundancies.

Mr Holland-Kaye has urged the government to implement air bridges between the UK and countries with low-infection rates to support the aviation industry out of the crisis.

Global Travel Taskforce will reveal plans to reopen travel in April

A report conducted by the Global Travel Taskforce highlights that the potential lack of travel this summer will lead to over GBP 55.7 billion in lost trade and GBP 3 billion in tourism gross domestic product (GDP). It’s also thought that around 574,000 jobs could be at risk if travel is suspended until September.

The Global Travel Taskforce are set to outline ways in which UK travel could be reopened in April and potentially reveal timeframes of when restrictions could be relaxed.

Industry leaders have already argued that it is “vital” that the UK opens up for trade and are pushing for travel restrictions to be lifted as early as 17th May, though Government ministers have already said this week that August seems more likely.

With the industry emerging from one of the most economically punishing periods in history, executives representing aviation, tourism, and hospitality sectors warn that without travel corridors the UK risks falling behind other nations.

Travel corridors, also called air bridges, which were implemented last year allowed safe travel to the UK from countries with low coronavirus infection rates. Passengers that showed no symptoms before travel was screened and able to enter the UK without having to quarantine.

Gloria Guevara, CEO & President at The World Travel & Tourism Council, says that the current “heavy-handed restrictions risk undermining the sector’s recovery”.

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