IATA calls for passenger face covering and crew masks, opposes onboard social distancing

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Wed, 06 May 2020 - 09:49 GMT

Flags at the 2016 International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting - Reuters.

Flags at the 2016 International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting - Reuters.

CAIRO, May 6 (MENA) - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) supports the wearing of face coverings for passengers and masks for crew while on board aircraft as a critical part of a layered approach to biosecurity to be implemented temporarily when people return to traveling by air.

IATA does not support mandating social distancing measures that would leave ‘middle seats’ empty.

Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. Mask-wearing by passengers and crew will reduce the already low risk, while avoiding the dramatic cost increases to air travel that onboard social distancing measures would bring.

“The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. The aviation industry is working with governments to re-start flying when this can be done safely. Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft is low. And we will take measures—such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by crew—to add extra layers of protection. We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

IATA recommends mandatory face-coverings for passengers and masks for crew as one of several actions to reduce the already low risk of contracting COVID-19 on board aircraft.

In addition to face coverings, these layers of temporary biosecurity measures being proposed include:

Temperature screening of passengers, airport workers and travelers, boarding and deplaning processes that reduce contact with other passengers or crew, limiting movement within the cabin during flight, more frequent and deeper cabin cleaning; and simplified catering procedures that lower crew movement and interaction with passengers.

When proven and available at scale, testing for COVID-19 or immunity passports could also be included as temporary biosecurity measures.

IATA does not recommend restricting the use of the ‘middle seat’ to create social distancing while onboard aircraft.

Evidence, although limited, suggests that, the risk of virus transmission on board aircraft is low even without special measures.

Calls for social distancing measures on aircraft would fundamentally shift the economics of aviation by slashing the maximum load factor to 62%. That is well below the average industry breakeven load factor of 77%.

With fewer seats to sell, unit costs would rise sharply. Compared to 2019, air fares would need to go up dramatically—between 43% and 54% depending on the region—just to break even.

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