European Carriers Send “Last Call” to Save Aviation During COVID-19

The biggest trade association for European airlines is calling on the European Commission to determine a path forward to opening borders and allowing travel once again. The group is asking for more COVID-19 testing and tracing measures, easy-to-understand maps and regional-level restrictions.

A group representing European airlines is issuing their “last call” to try and help recover the travel and aviation sectors, with the goal of boosting the trade bloc as they attempt to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. In a press release, Airlines for Europe is calling on a four-step plan to reopen borders and encourage commerce once again.

Plan Calls for Easy-to-Read Maps, Testing Measures and Quarantine Exemptions

The four-step plan from the aviation group calls for the European Council to consider more than the number of COVID-19 cases from a nation. Instead, the consortium wants Europe to publish an easy-to-read map for all travelers, offer COVID-19 testing options upon arrival, and quarantine exclusions for low-risk travelers.

Since the European Commission recommended some borders reopen in July 2020, their evaluation process includes an understanding of “the health situation, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and reciprocity considerations.” However, Airlines for Europe is asking the European Union to expand their considerations to include incidence rate and the positivity rate for COVID-19 infections. Quarantines and restrictions could also be applied to specific regions, instead of the Schengen Associated region.

In place of quarantines, the group is calling for enhanced testing of inbound international passengers. By offering tests to passengers prior to departure, the group suggests the spread of COVID-19 can be limited, while welcoming individuals who cannot stay in quarantine for two weeks. Another option is the London Heathrow Airport (LHR) plan, which would allow flyers to make an appointment for on-site testing before boarding their flight.

The group also wants quarantine exclusions for certain travelers, including airline crews and passengers transiting through Europe. They suggest allowing travelers who will be staying for less than 72 hours with little contact with the public to be in the exclusion group.

Finally, the airline organization wants the EU to develop a clear map of what restrictions are ahead for potential flyers, similar to the ones made by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) and United Airlines. Although the EU currently offers a map, it’s not necessarily updated in real time.

Renewed Call to Action Comes as Final Effort for Airline Recovery

Joining Airlines for Europe in asking for a new solution is Airports Council International – Europe (ACI), who previously said: “Saving European tourism and aviation is not going to be done by selectively pouring billions into a few airlines.” While Lufthansa took a bailout package from the German government to keep afloat, Virgin Atlantic restructured with the help of their partners to keep flying. British Airways has taken many difficult steps to maintain liquidity, including selling off parts of their art collection and immediately retiring all of their Boeing 747 airframes.

Both ACI and Airlines for Europe agree that in order to save European travel and aviation, the quarantine needs to be replaced with risk-based strategies. Otherwise, the sector could be in for a catastrophic collapse.

“The Council of the EU must make this a political priority,” Benjamin Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM group and chairman of Airlines for Europe, said in a statement. “Uncoordinated national measures over the last six months have had a devastating impact on freedom of movement – a core EU principal – with significant knock-on effects for our travel and tourism sector”

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