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Pressure Intensifies to Drop Quarantines in Favour of EU-Wide Passenger Testing Protocol

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Aviation bodies set out common framework for pre-departure testing to re-establish freedom of movement in Europe and reunite families by the holiday season

Brussels and Geneva, 02 October 2020: With less than 90 days to go before the year-end holiday season, European aviation bodies have intensified their call to replace quarantine measures with passenger testing. This will provide far greater assurance and ability for cross-border travellers to plan family reunions or vacations during this important holiday period. It will also serve as a lifeline to the millions of workers in the travel and tourism sectors whose jobs remain at risk.

Following their direct call to action together with the wider travel and tourism sectors in a letter to European Commission President von der Leyen on 17 September, aviation bodies ACI EUROPE, Airlines for Europe (A4E) and IATA have submitted a framework for how an EU-wide Testing Protocol for Travel (EU-TPT) could work.

In follow up letters sent to the Commission President and Heads of State, as well as Health Ministers across Europe last night, the industry associations set out their proposal for harmonised pre-departure testing from high-risk areas, describing the current situation of patchwork quarantine restrictions as “unsustainable”.

Aviation industry data confirms the worsening situation. IATA figures show air traffic to, from and within Europe is down by 66.3% year to date. Latest figures from ACI EUROPE reveal that as of 27 September, passenger traffic in the EU had further plunged to -78%.

New research released by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions suggests the collapse of air traffic could result in a 52% drop in employment supported by aviation in Europe, equating to the loss of around 7 million jobs. Nearly €450 billion in economic activity will be lost. Urgent action is therefore required to prevent an even greater economic and employment catastrophe.

“We need to learn to live — and travel — with the virus”, says the letter. “Re-establishing the free movement of people and air connectivity across our continent in a safe way must be a priority”.

With many Europeans wondering whether they will be able to come together with their families and loved ones for the holiday season, the proposed testing protocol would allow for this to happen in a safe and harmonised way. The associations reiterate their calls for the Commission and Member States to prioritise the development and implementation of the European Testing Protocol for Travel system.

The letter highlights the continually worsening outlook for passenger demand along with cripplingly low forward bookings for the winter season — down -80% from 2019. The planning certainty and risk-based safety of a common testing protocol would give European countries an effective way to reduce transmission both in communities and during air travel whilst stimulating the economy.

The framework proposed is based on two overarching principles:

  • Quarantines must be replaced by testing prior to departure, based on an EU Testing Protocol for travel which is consistently applicable for passengers travelling across borders from high risk areas in the EU/Schengen space and from third countries. Public opinion research has established that 65% of travellers surveyed agree that quarantine should not be required for passengers who test negative for COVID-19.
  • Travel restrictions must be coordinated and based on common risk assessment. This supports the risk assessment criteria and the common colour coding system / mapping of designated areas already proposed by the European Commission, but which is yet to be endorsed and fully implemented by EU States.

In concluding their recommendations, ACI EUROPE, A4E and IATA state unequivocally their position that adoption by European States of a common testing protocol would further reduce transmission risks, restore confidence among the travelling public, and protect livelihoods by allowing the travel and tourism sectors to begin their recovery.
As a result, they urge immediate action from the European Commission and States to urgently address this issue at EU level and accelerate this process.

For more information, contact: A4E:

Jennifer Janzen, Communications Director, jennifer.janzen@a4e.eu, +32 499 828294

ACI EUROPE: Virginia Lee, Director, Media & Communications, +32 2 552 09 82 virginia.lee@aci-europe.org

IATA: Corporate Communications, +41 22 770 2967, corpcomms@iata.org

Notes to Editors

– Launched in 2016, Airlines for Europe (A4E) is Europe’s largest airline association, based in Brussels. The organisation advocates on behalf of its members to help shape EU aviation policy to the benefit of consumers, ensuring a continued safe and competitive air transport market. Follow us on Twitter @A4Europe.

– ACI EUROPE is the European region of Airports Council International (ACI), the only worldwide professional association of airport operators. ACI EUROPE represents over 500 airports in 45 European countries. Our members facilitate over 90% of commercial air traffic in Europe: 2.5 billion passengers, 20.7 million tonnes of freight and 25.7 million aircraft movements in 2019. In response to the Climate Emergency, in June 2019 our members committed to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions for operations under their control by 2050, without offsetting.

– IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic. You can follow IATA at https://twitter.com/iata for announcements, policy positions, and other useful industry information.

About A4E

Launched in 2016, Airlines for Europe (A4E) is Europe’s largest airline association, based in Brussels. The organisation advocates on behalf of its members to help shape EU aviation policy to the benefit of consumers, ensuring a continued safe and competitive air transport market. With more than 720 million passengers carried each year, A4E members account for more than 70 per cent of the continent’s journeys, operating more than 3,000 aircraft and generating more than EUR 130 billion in annual turnover. Members with air cargo and mail activities transport more than 5 million tons of goods each year to more than 360 destinations either by freighters or passenger aircraft. Current members include Aegean, airBaltic, Air France-KLM Group, Cargolux, easyJet, Finnair, Icelandair, International Airlines Group (IAG), Jet2.com, Lufthansa Group, Norwegian, Ryanair Holdings, Smartwings, TAP Air Portugal, TUI and Volotea. In 2019, A4E was named “Airline & Aviation Business Development Organisation of the Year” by International Transport News. Follow us on Twitter @A4Europe.