The International Air Transport Association is working to create a test system that will replace mandatory quarantines to help revive the aviation industry affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“IATA, which represents about 290 airlines worldwide, is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Health Organization to create scalable, affordable and fast test systems,” said Conrad Clifford, IATA Regional Vice President Asia Pacific.
"We need testing because we need to get rid of the quarantine," Clifford said in an interview on Monday. "So far, we have seen that if there is a 14-day quarantine, then it is the same as closing your borders."
Clifford said IATA "would prefer to do some testing before departure, and ideally if we can find countries with a similar level of Covid risk, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, then that would eliminate the need for further testing."
Last week, Singapore and Hong Kong agreed to open their borders to each other for the first time in nearly seven months, freeing residents of both cities from mandatory quarantines to help restore ties between Asia's two largest financial centers. Details of the agreement, which is expected to begin within a few weeks, have yet to be made public.
Ideally, tests should cost less than $ 10, Clifford said.
Clifford said the risk of contamination of passengers is "very low" as airlines are more thoroughly disinfecting aircraft and cutting down on board food and magazine costs. Based on the estimated 44 potential airborne infections reported this year, the chance of contracting the virus is roughly one in 27 million, he said.
The likelihood of infection on board an aircraft is lower than the likelihood of being struck by lightning. “The airlines have taken many measures to bring this chance as low as possible to zero. So it is a very safe environment indeed, "Clifford said.
Although IATA predicted in June that airlines would lose a total of $ 84 billion due to the virus this year, that figure will be higher as the market did not open up as the industry hoped, Clifford said. The group said it expects demand for air travel will not rebound to pre-2024 levels.
Freight has been a silver swallow for the industry - thanks in part to online shopping - and will continue to do so for years, Clifford said. Air travel is expected to account for about 26% of carriers' revenue this year, up from 12% in 2019, he said.
Freight rates skyrocketed after travel restrictions halted thousands of passenger planes, which carry more than half of air travel. This prompted airlines to convert passenger aircraft to carry cargo.