New guidelines from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have been broadly welcomed by the industry.
The guidelines place paramount importance on health safety at every stage of the end-to-end passenger journey.
Recognising that airports, airlines and aircraft are different, it takes a pragmatic approach in implementation – highlighting and giving guidance on the ways in which individual locations and situations can best be re-engineered to meet the new health safety standards.
However, some overarching principles apply throughout.
Passengers will be asked to observe physical distancing wherever possible, wear a medical face mask to protect others, and practice scrupulous and frequent hand hygiene.
Air passengers will also have to be reassured that filtered air on airplanes is safer and cleaner than many of us breathe on the ground, the EASA said.
“The safety of passengers and crews has always been paramount in aviation,” European commissioner for transport Adina Valean said.
“Passengers have to have confidence that taking to the skies again in a confined space with other people poses the minimum possible risk to their health.
“We relied on our specialists from EASA and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to define a set of concrete measures for the safe resumption of air travel within the EU.
“The protocol released today will reassure passengers that it is safe for them to fly and so help the industry recover from the effects of this pandemic.”
Passengers themselves are also expected to take personal responsibility.
For example, passengers who have Covid-19 compatible symptoms (fever, cough, sudden loss of smell, shortness of breath) or who are aware that they have come in contact with a Covid-19 case should not arrive at the airport or should postpone their travel to protect their fellow passengers.
The outline has been welcomed by Ryanair.
However, the low-cost carrier urged European governments to refrain from implementing quarantine requirements for travellers.
Ryanair Group chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said: “Requiring international arrivals to quarantine only after they have used multiple public transport providers to get from the airport to their ultimate destination has no basis in science or medicine.
“We strongly urge Europe’s governments, especially those in Ireland and the UK, to mandate to the wearing of face masks for airline, train and (London) underground passengers, as this is the best and most effective way to limit the spread of Covid-19 in public transport environments where social distancing is not possible.”
The European Regions Airline Association said harmony would be vital in rebuilding trust.
Montserrat Barriga, ERA director general, explained: “ERA recently called for a harmonised approach to safely reconnect and reunite Europe by air travel.
“I am hopeful that EASA’s new guidelines will provide this much needed co-ordination amongst the industry and allow us to return to operation in a safe and aligned manner.
“I am pleased to say many of the measures suggested are in line with ERA’s recommendations and believe these practical actions will provide travellers with confidence to start flying again as soon as possible.”