New rules for post-coronavirus air travel announced by EASA

2020/05/22 10:12:13 Written by Canarian Weekly National

Anyone flying will have to follow a number of rules to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading via air travel, according to guidelines that have been issued to airports and airlines by the EU's air safety body.

- Face masks, temperature checks and goodbyes outside terminals.
- Bans on the sale of duty free items in terminals, and on flights are suggested.
- The air travel measures are expected to be adopted by all EU members states.
- The UK is also expected to follow very similar measures.
- Airlines have welcomed the new rules, saying they enable summer holidays.

The rules laid out in 28-pages of guidelines issued by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and published on its website, will dramatically change the way people travel by air, are expected to be adopted by all EU member states, with the UK likely to implement similar rules.

The guidelines have been met with relief from airlines, who have said that they are positive step towards allowing international travel and tourism this summer.

Since leaving the EU on January 31st, the UK has no influence of EASA policy, and has had no input in putting the guidelines together, but does remain a member until the end of the year. However, the Civil Aviation Authority is reportedly putting together a similar set of guidelines for British airlines and airports that will generally follow those published by the EU.

"The safety of passengers and crews has always been paramount in aviation," the European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Valean, said in a statement released by EASA, explaining the rationale behind the guidelines.

"Passengers have to be confident that taking to the skies again in a confined space, with other people, poses the minimum possible risk to their health. We relied on our specialists from EASA and ECDC to define a set of concrete measures for the safe resumption of air travel within the EU. These protocols will reassure passengers that it is safe for them to fly, and help the industry recover from the effects of this pandemic," she added.

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE NEW EASA RULES?
Under the new measures from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), anyone who is not travelling or working in an airport will be not be allowed inside the terminal, meaning people will have to say goodbye to loved ones outside.

Once inside, travellers will also be expected to take precautions, such as wearing face masks and washing hands, and to follow 'respiratory etiquette', ie covering the face when sneezing or coughing. Anyone who does not follow the rules risks being evicted from the airport and refused their flight.

They should also observe physical distancing measures by keeping 1.5 metres away from others, with floor markings placed to show people where to stand.

In the event that such distancing measures are not possible, the EASA rules state that the airport should increase other measures, such as hand hygiene.

Other measures at airports will include all staff wearing protective face masks, and giving them to any passengers who do not have one, as well as adding plastic screens at check-in desks, and security check areas.

All security staff will be wearing masks, and could also be wearing face shields when performing body checks.

Hand luggage rules could become even stricter in a bid to reduce boarding time and the risk of infection at gates, and passengers could be offered incentives to take less with them on flights, such as discounted rates for storing baggage in the hold.

On-board, aircraft are to be disinfected between all flights, and the EU body has asked for airlines to upgrade air filtration systems to clean the air in the cabin.

Passengers will be required to wear masks on the flight, which should be discarded every four hours, meaning on longer flights people will have to swap their masks for new ones.

In order to reduce the number of people using the on-board toilets, and therefore queuing in the isles, the EASA has recommended that food and drink services are reduced, with no duty-free sales during the flight.

Upon arrival, passengers could be subject to thermal screening, and airlines have been asked to provide health authorities with a 'passenger locator card' if requested for contact tracing purposes, which would give details of the passengers name, seat number and contact details.

The EASA rules do not include a quarantine period for arrivals or the use of immunity passports, as this is out of their jurisdiction.

WHAT DO THE AIRLINES SAY?
EasyJet has said that it will resume some flights from June 15th, with passengers required to wear face masks on board the aircraft. It will also suspend the sale of food and drink and provide disinfectant wipes and hand sanitiser.

At first, the budget airline will reopen domestic routes between 22 European airports, including Gatwick, Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast.

'We are a pan-European airline and we look closely towards their guidance to make sure we follow the correct procedures across our network,' said David Morgan, Easyjet's director of flight operations.

Morgan said that Easyjet have been working closely with the EASA, and added that aircraft would be disinfected each day with treatments that can remain on hard surfaces for a day, adding that cabin systems were capable of filtering out 99.8 per cent of air contaminants.

Ryanair also reacted positively to the news. Europe's largest airline plans to resume flights from June 1st, and said that the measures would allow for Europe's tourism industry to restart in July and August.

The airline's CEO Michael O'Leary, who has previously been an outspoken critique of some measures proposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, such as a quarantine period for travellers entering into countries, again called on Irish and UK governments to abandon quarantine restrictions.

'We call again on the Irish and UK governments to abandon their unexplainable, ineffective, and unimplementable quarantine restrictions,' he said.