Alexandre de Juniac lists down IATA's key agenda for 2021

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I don’t think anybody in aviation will be nostalgic about 2020. If there ever was an “annus horribilis” for aviation, it was 2020. 2021 will be a better year. But we all know that Covid-19 will not disappear with a date change. This virus is going to be with us for some time. And the challenge is learning to live with it. That means learning to effectively manage the risks of Covid-19. Right now, international travel is largely shut down in order to manage the risk. The cost of that could be 46 million lost jobs in the aviation-related travel and tourism sector. That will wipe-out about $1.8 trillion in GDP. These statistics are catastrophic. But they only tell part of the story.

Putting massive numbers of people out of work causes enormous social and health problems—alcoholism and substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues, delays in addressing other health problems, economic hardship and so on. And de-connecting the fabric of international society separates families and loved ones, erodes business opportunities, delays educational opportunities and damages trade.

We also cannot afford to wait for vaccines to cover the population before reviving international travel. So, let me highlight four key areas that are at the top of our agenda for re-connecting the world from an operational perspective:

Following global standards to keep travel safe. One of the greatest achievements in this crisis was the establishment of the guidelines for measures to keep flying safe—the ICAO CART guidelines. This was done in record time. And the implementation has been good, but not universal. Therefore, the first priority is to ensure that these measures are in place everywhere.

Second is clearing the way for the effective distribution of vaccines. On December 16, IATA issued the second set of IATA guidance for this. I don’t need to remind you of the massive scale of this operation. And we need governments to do everything in their power to help us deliver successfully — readying cold-chain facilities, eliminating red-tape and expediting border formalities. We also need our staff to be prioritized as essential workers so that we have the people ready to get the job done. That’s why critical aviation workers should be on the priority list after health care workers and vulnerable populations.

Third is safely re-opening borders with systematic Covid-19 testing. Critically, this must be without quarantine measures. We know for sure that quarantine kills demand. And the ECDC and EASA have recently confirmed that, at current infections levels in many parts of the world, it is not effective at stopping the spread of Covid-19. ICAO has provided states with various options for testing.

We have data from testing programs which demonstrates that it can greatly reduce the risk of imported Covid-19 cases—to a handful of cases each day, even in very large markets. But we need governments to think in terms of achievable risk management. Currently many are aiming for risk elimination. The social, economic and health costs of this approach are enormous. And it is becoming clear that the goal itself is practically unachievable.

And fourth is having efficient means for managing verified health information. We know that testing or vaccination data will be critical to giving governments the confidence to re-open borders. That’s a huge task. This means keeping track of entry requirements and accredited testing laboratories, having secure systems to securely manage and verify test results or vaccine status, linking test results, individual identity and travel processes so that we have a solution that is manageable for airlines/authorities and convenient for travelers.

IATA is promoting a solution known as the IATA Travel Pass. Others have their own solutions. We do not see this as a competition. Our aim is to have a cost effective, easy to use, efficient and secure system for this important task. With IATA’s experience in global standards and industry solutions like TIMATIC, we have a very credible offer that will be in the market in the first quarter of 2021. But our work is open source and modular and that means we can support any solution that will help get borders open.

The IATA Travel Pass is our top priority. It is as important as the work that IATA did on e-ticketing a decade or so ago. I am pleased to introduce Nick Careen, our SVP for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, who is leading this project. 

(This article first appeared on iata.org)

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