MIDDLE EAST. Governments in the Middle East must urgently implement the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)’s guidelines for restarting aviation, an alliance of trade bodies has said.

Airports Council International (ACI) Asia-Pacific and the International Airport Transport Association (IATA) stated the measures will ensure a safe and harmonised restart for aviation in the region.

Stefano Baronci says the ICAO guidelines need to be put in place swiftly

ACI Asia-Pacific Director General Stefano Baronci said: “Safety and security are the industry’s main priority, and both are firmly entrenched into every airport’s operations and corporate culture. Building on this track record, the ICAO Take-Off Guidance document is fully aligned with our industry’s focus on passenger and employee wellbeing.

“We urge the Middle East states to swiftly implement the guidelines, so we can ensure truly harmonised and effective measures across the region and passengers can return to air travel with confidence.”

IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East Muhammad Albakri added: “We are counting on governments in the Middle East to implement the ICAO  Take-Off Guidance quickly and in a harmonised and mutually-recognised way. The world wants to travel again and needs airlines to play a key role in the economic recovery.

“The guidance recognises that social distancing is not possible on an aircraft, therefore supports face coverings as part of a layered risk mitigation approach. It also recommends contact tracing, which should give governments the confidence to open borders without quarantine measures.”

Several countries in the Middle East have totally restrictive border policies, according to the latest information from IATA on 17 June

The ICAO guidelines were well-received by industry bodies when revealed on 1 June. Duty Free World Council (DFWC) President Sarah Branquinho said the announcement was “an extremely positive development” and that the guidance would be a critical part of government policies.

However, several countries in the Middle East still have a totally restrictive border policy, according to IATA’s regularly-updated travel regulations map, and have not yet indicated when international flights will resume.

ICAO Acting Regional Director for the Middle East Mohamed Smaoui commented: “Air connectivity is critical to economic and sustainable development in the Middle East. An effective recovery of air transport in the region is essential to support the economy post-COVID-19.

“The key principles, recommendations and guidelines of the CART Report and Take-Off Document provide governments with a framework for restarting aviation while protecting public health; and are intended to inform and align the COVID-19 recovery roadmaps established by states or industry.”

IATA’s estimates paint a stark message for Middle Eastern airlines

It is estimated demand in terms of passenger volumes will fall -56% year-on-year for Middle East airlines in 2020, leading to a net loss for the year of US$4.8 billion. The total revenue loss for the region’s airports is expected to be US$7 billion.

IATA’s Albakri added: “We need all hands on deck to get the industry up and running again and are committed to making the journey as seamless and risk-free as possible. We will collaborate and support states to implement these guidelines in the fastest and most efficient way, and encourage governments and other industry stakeholders to reach out to us for support.”

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