An ICAO task force has published its recommendations to aid the restart of international air transport following its virtual grounding from the coronavirus pandemic.

ICAO’s Aviation Recovery Task Force drew up the guidelines after consulting with countries, regional organisations, the World Health Organisation and aviation industry groups.

The task force’s chairperson Philippe Bertoux says they are intended to ”inform, align and progress” the national, regional, and industry-specific Covid-19 recovery roadmaps now being implemented, but not to replace them.

”They are intended to support the restart and recovery of global air travel in a safe, secure and sustainable way,” he says. “In order to be effective, we need to take a layered and especially a risk-based approach. Measures will be implemented or removed as needed based on the wide ranging medical and other factors which will be at play,” 

The wide-ranging guidance is set out against five stages of air travel, from the minimal international passenger traffic levels today to a point where “specific and effective pharmaceutical interventions” are readily available in most countries.

Specific guidance has been drawn up to cover the situation at airports, boarding and travelling on the the aircraft, for crew and for cargo flights. 

Guidelines for the boarding process including seating passengers, where possible to reduce the likelihood of passing in close proximity of each other, and to allow for separated seating arrangements “when occupancy allows it”.

It also suggests limiting interaction onboard by encouraging passengers to travel with as little cabin baggage as possible, to remove newspapers and magazines, and temporarily limit the scale of duty free sales. It recommends airlines should “limit or discontinue food and beverage service” on short-haul flights or dispense it in sealed pre-packed containers.

The guidelines also recommend that when possible, one lavatory should be designated for crew use only, while ”to the extent practicable”, passengers should use a designated lavatory based on seat assignment to limit passenger movement during the flight.

IATA, which was among the organisations consulted by the task force, is urging governments to quickly implement the global guidelines.

”We are counting on governments to implement the recommendations quickly, because the world wants to travel again and needs airlines to play a key role in the economic recovery,” says IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac.

”This layering of measures should give travellers and crew the confidence they need to fly again. And we are committed to working with our partners to continuously improve these measures as medical science, technology and the pandemic evolve.”

Airports body ACI World also welcomed the new guidelines. “While ACI World believes there is currently no single measure that could mitigate all the risks of restarting air travel, the harmonisation of any new processes and procedures represents the most effective way of balancing risk mitigation with the need to unlock economies and to enable travel,” it says.