ICAO Getting Feedback On Virus-Free ‘Corridor’ Concept

Credit: Joe Pries

ICAO is getting preliminary feedback on a proposal that would create a virtual tunnel that only permits virus-free flight crew and potentially passengers to travel, and is confident that the idea, while complex, will yield a workable model for airlines to use post-pandemic.

“We have some key elements proposed in a concept of operations now circulating, but it’s premature to be discussing anything until everything has been properly vetted,” said Stephen Creamer, ICAO’s Air Navigation Bureau director. “The coordination we’re trying to make work on the fly is complex from many standpoints, but I’m confident that a solution will be arrived at.”

The Public Health Corridors Concept (PHCC) envisions combining procedures such as approved novel coronavirus testing and aircraft cleaning with forms of validation, such as health certificates and signoffs on freshly disinfected aircraft. The process would provide verifiable evidence that travelers are not infected, nor in danger of getting infected during trips. 

Its complexity means considerable coordination is required. Laws for testing personnel differ around the world, for instance, meaning multiple processes would likely be needed just to validate participants are virus-free.

Cargo pilots and other personnel would be the first to use the system, as their work is most in demand because of the drop-off in global passenger flights. Expansion to passenger airline personnel and perhaps passengers is also being considered.

PHCC would address several issues. Countries concerned about incoming flights would not need to apply quarantine measures, for example. Pilots and other airline personnel would be confident that their risk is reduced, as the concept extends beyond testing individuals for the virus that causes COVID-19 to include travel spaces, from airport lounges to crew shuttle buses and, of course, aircraft.

Creamer said ICAO is working with both major global health organizations and aviation stakeholders such as IATA and different union groups on the concept. 

“We’re all collecting and sharing data at this time and working together to find some solutions applicable to the aviation environment,” Creamer said. “Very clearly we need a concept that can be endorsed by both governments and industry.”

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.