EU Aims For Mid-May Release Of Aviation Restart Guidelines

Credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week

LONDON—European transport commissioner Adina Valean is planning to finalize a set of social-distancing and sanitation guidelines for aviation by mid-May, paving the way for flights to resume in a unified way.

Speaking on a Q&A broadcast released via the European Commission (EC) directorate general for Mobility & Transport’s (DG MOVE) Twitter account, Valean said the EC is working on an exit strategy from the COVID-19 crisis.

The EC is pushing for member states to follow a harmonized approach to reopening their borders and transport networks, rather than each country taking their own measures.

Valean did not want to pre-empt the outcome of the work that is currently underway, but she gave an indication of likely measures.

She said these are likely to include “some distancing” in the airport and on the aircraft, the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and increased airport and aircraft hygiene standards—particularly around entry and exit points.

“All this should be part of it. Probably, by mid-May, we should be able to put forward this strategy we are working on, which will explain the situation and come up with some horizonal principles, of rules to be respected in the reopening of travel,” Valean said.

There will be specific measures for each transport mode, including aviation.

“We have to take into consideration the right timing and I cannot say right now when this is going to start happening, because we have to listen to the advice of the health specialists when [it] is safe enough to restart this connectivity and mobility of people,” Valean said.

She added that certain health criteria will have to be met before any relaxation, but said borders are likely to reopen before the pandemic has fully ended, creating a need for the new travel guidelines.

Valean acknowledged that aviation has been hardest-hit by COVID-19 among the various transport modes, adding that the prospects for this summer and the future landscape remain unclear.

However, she proposed that 2021 should be the European year for rail, because of the sector’s sustainability credentials compared with aviation, shipping and road transport.

“Rail will be a very important part of our recovery strategy,” she said.

Victoria Moores

Victoria Moores joined Air Transport World as our London-based European Editor/Bureau Chief on 18 June 2012. Victoria has nearly 20 years’ aviation industry experience, spanning airline ground operations, analytical, journalism and communications roles.