As airlines worldwide struggle to stay afloat due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airports Council International (ACI) World have urged governments to use testing as a means to safely re-open borders.

Both organizations are also calling to for the re-establishment of global connectivity to avoid the systemic collapse of the aviation industry with non-debt generating financial support.

IATA and ACI say that these measures will protect countries from the importation of coronavirus cases, and avert an employment crisis in the travel and tourism sector.

They will also ensure “that the critical aviation structures remain viable, and in a strategic position to support the socio-economic benefits on which the world relies.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic remains an existential crisis and airports, airlines and their commercial partners need direct and swift financial assistance to protect essential operations and jobs,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said.

“But such assistance is only one piece of the puzzle as the industry restarts and prepares to sustain continuing operations focused on the health and welfare of travelers, staff, and the public.”

Most states imposed various forms of restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19, and these measures have grounded the air transport industry causing billions in losses.

About 46 million jobs may be lost due to the loss of connectivity caused by the pandemic according to data recently released by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG). At least 41.2 million jobs are in the travel and tourism sector which relies on aviation, while the remaining 4.8 million jobs are spread out across direct employment in aviation, including airlines and airports.

ACI also estimates that the airport industry will suffer a 60% reduction in revenues, amounting to a record $104.5 billion drop. Meanwhile, IATA estimates that airline revenues will fall by 50% to $419 billion in 2020 from $838 billion in 2019.

Aviation analysts believe that a safe re-opening of borders without mandatory quarantine, by using a coordinated approach to testing would boost the entire economy. Crucially it will revive an ailing aviation industry.

“ACI and IATA are aligned in calling for urgent government action to introduce widespread and coordinated testing of passengers to enable quarantine requirements to be removed. Without this action, it is not an exaggeration that the industry is facing collapse,” Oliviera said.

IATA and ACI are urging governments to offer direct financial assistance to the aviation sector in forms that protect jobs and operations, does not increase debt levels, and minimizes default on debt and credit losses.

Both organizations have also requested the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force to provide an internationally agreed and recognized approach to testing that can be adopted at a national level.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said: “We need action quickly. Large parts of the global air network have been severely ruptured for well over a half year. Job losses—inside and outside the industry—mount with each day that borders are closed.

“And with each job lost, the recovery and impact on the broader economy becomes even more difficult. Momentum is building in support of testing to re-open borders. It’s the top operational priority. And to make sure that we have a viable aviation sector at the end of this crisis a second round of financial relief is unavoidable.”

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