Air Malta has joined International calls headed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association of the world’s airlines, that are calling for the development and deployment of rapid, accurate, affordable, easy-to-operate, scalable and systematic COVID-19 testing for all passengers before flight departure. This testing is an alternative to quarantine measures and is intended to re-establish global air connectivity.
Commenting on this initiative Air Malta’s Chairman Charles Mangion said, “The industry is in desperate need of a solution to bring back trust in travel. The key to restore the freedom of mobility across borders is through the systematic testing for COVID-19 of all travellers before flight departure.
“Testing upon departure will give governments the confidence to open their borders without having to continuously run risk models and frequently change the rules imposed on travel. Testing all passengers will restore confidence, instil peace of mind whilst help restart the various businesses and jobs associated with travel and tourism and help boost the economy”, added Dr. Mangion.
Air Malta’s Chief Commercial Officer, Paul Sies added that besides the peace of mind of being tested, such assessments will bring back a sense of security to travel. He added that during the first months of the Covid pandemic, Air Malta guaranteed the travelling public connectivity with its ‘Lifeline’ schedule. For Winter 2020/1, Air Malta has designed another LifeLine flight schedule that will guarantee flight connectivity throughout winter for those that need and want to travel and ensure the flow of cargo and medical supplies to the Islands.
“We are seeing a daily reduction in passenger traffic and are constantly making changes to our network to have the right balance between demand and capacity. We critically need structured testing on departure of every single passenger using new and rapid test methodologies. Only by implementing such systems can we restore confidence and get people to travel again. This is vital for Island states such as Malta that depend so much on tourism”, highlighted Mr Sies.
Such calls are also being voiced in Europe whereby 25 aviation industry associations last week co-signed a letter to Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission, urging for swift action to end blanket quarantine measures across Europe and to co-ordinate a common testing protocol system to protect the livelihoods of thousands of industry workers and businesses, as well as to ensure the future of those regions reliant on tourism.
International travel is 92% down on 2019 levels. Over six months passed since global connectivity was severely crippled as countries closed their borders to fight COVID-19. Countries have cautiously re-opened borders since then, but there has been limited uptake because either quarantine measures make travel impractical or frequent changes in measures are making travel planning impossible.
IATA said that the economic cost of the breakdown in global connectivity makes investing in a border-opening testing solution a priority for governments. The human suffering and global economic pain of the crisis will be prolonged if the aviation industry – on which at least 65.5 million jobs depend – collapses before the pandemic ends. The amount of government support needed to avert such a collapse is rising. The association said that lost revenues are expected to exceed $400 billion and the industry was set to post a record net loss of over $80 billion in 2020 under a more optimistic rebound scenario than has actually unfolded.