As EU countries are gradually reopening their economies, the question about hygiene and risks for travelers and their crew has become increasingly important.
ECA Secretary General Philip von Schöppenthau said: “The nature of air travel, linking two different countries, brings a challenge of mutual co-operation in a pandemic. While each country can enact the most carefully designed mitigation measures for the disease, unless they are harmonized and mutually accepted by each country at either end of an air route, it is extremely difficult to link them together.”
While there is currently no accurate prediction model about the virus’ transmission risk on planes, European pilots favor a precautionary approach.
“Masks are a rational measure for passengers. They have a role in reducing risk in everyday life, that doesn’t suddenly stop at the door of a plane”, said Schöppenthau. “Cheap, simple cloth masks and face coverings help prevent passing on infections to others, and can reduce the risk both for other passengers and crew.”
At the moment, European Member States have different approaches to rules and health measures, which are difficult to fit together. States will need to determine if incoming passengers have any greater risk of importing the virus than the arrival state. Rigorous pre- or post-flight screening methods, passenger information and common levels of disease suppression between countries could all help mitigate risks until effective treatment or vaccines become available.
ECA President Jon Horne said: "We also understand very well that people are wary of traveling during a pandemic. Do passengers face an increased risk when flying compared to going about their everyday life? If flying presents no more risk of transmission than shopping for groceries, going to work or school, or using other forms of transport, there is no safety benefit in avoiding it and flights should resume. This is an area where research and evidence will provide re-assurance for both air crew and passengers.”