The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed an enormous human, social and financial toll on the world and civil aviation. At the same time, civil aviation has proven its role as a worldwide enabler in overcoming hardship, through vital air cargo services and in support of global supply chains, as well as timely emergency and humanitarian response. Air passenger services had an instrumental role when repatriating hundreds of thousands of people during the early stages of this public health emergency. However, these important contributions cannot hide the fact that severely reduced air services put a heavy strain on the global economy and on our societies.
It is important to recognize aviation's role in economic growth, job creation, delivery of goods and services, and global connectivity. It is a sector that brings the world closer together, promotes its social and cultural richness, and provides critical access to remote regions, isolated islands and other vulnerable States. Restoring air connectivity will be a key contribution to a successful and rapid recovery of the global economy post-COVID-19.
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, ICAO has provided support and guidance to States and the civil aviation industry on the expedited release and clearance of goods carried by air, licensing and certification of crew, aviation safety risk management and facilitation of repatriation flights. To resolve disruptions to trade and global supply chains, ICAO worked to enable expedited air cargo movements, coordinated delivery of humanitarian goods through the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), and most recently published guidance for the implementation of Public Health Corridors to protect crews operating cargo flights.
These practical actions stemmed from efforts orchestrated by Member States, regional and
international organizations especially the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as well as the industry and through fora such as the Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA).
Following the Council Declaration on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) adopted on 9 March 2020, the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) was established. This task force, composed of representatives from States, and international, regional and industry organizations and supported by the ICAO Secretariat, was tasked to identify and recommend strategic priorities and policies to support Sates and industry based around three pillars:
A safe, secure and sustainable restart and recovery of the global aviation sector is best supported by an internationally harmonized approach based on the following principles:
1. Protect People: Harmonized but Flexible Measures. States and industry need to work together to put in place harmonized or mutually accepted risk-based measures to protect passengers, crew, and other staff throughout the travel experience.
2. Work as One Aviation Team and Show Solidarity. The respective plans of ICAO, States, international and regional organizations, and the industry should complement and support each other. While national and regional needs may require different approaches, States should harmonize responses to the extent possible, in line with ICAO's standards, plans and policies.
3. Ensure Essential Connectivity. States and industry should maintain essential connectivity and global supply chains, especially to remote regions, isolated islands and other vulnerable States.
4. Actively Manage Safety-, Security- and Health-related Risks. States and industry should use data-driven systemic approaches to manage the operational safety-, security-, and health-related risks in the restart and recovery phases, and adapt their measures accordingly.
5. Make Aviation Public Health Measures. Work with Aviation Safety and Security Systems. Health measures must be carefully assessed to avoid negatively impacting aviation safety and/or security.
6. Strengthen Public Confidence. States and industry need to work together, harmonizing practical measures and communicating clearly, to ensure passengers are willing to travel again.
7. Distinguish Restart from Recovery. Restarting the industry and supporting its recovery are distinct phases which may require different approaches and temporary measures to mitigate evolving risks.
8. Support Financial Relief Strategies to Help the Aviation Industry. States and financial institutions, consistent with their mandates, should consider the need to provide direct and/or indirect support in various proportionate and transparent ways. In doing so, they should safeguard fair competition and not distort markets or undermine diversity or access.
9. Ensure Sustainability. Aviation is the business of connections, and a driver of economic and social recovery. States and industry should strive to ensure the economic and environmental sustainability of the aviation sector.
10. Learn Lessons to Improve Resilience. As the world recovers, the lessons learned have to be used to make the aviation system stronger.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the complex nature in which aviation operates, both within and between States. Such extraordinary situations require collaborative decision-making based on currently available information and with the respective assessment and management of risks, leveraging applicable methodologies and tools, that extend beyond the boundaries of managing aviation safety and security risks.
Considering the global economic and social impact of the crisis, the path to recovery is likely to be unpredictable and challenging. It will take place through a phased process and call for unprecedented measures and solutions. States may find themselves in different phases at different times, depending on the scale and development of the public health crisis.
States should give careful consideration to the potential impacts of their decisions on the efforts of other States in managing the risks, while recognizing the sovereignty and responsibility of States over their national recovery plans. They, along with industry, should look to learn lessons from those who are in a different phase in managing the crisis. And they should endeavour to maintain an appropriate balance in their planning for the benefit of all civil aviation stakeholders, as well as a proportionate approach with regards to other sectors of the economy.