Global airport group says pandemic safety rules to lengthen pre-departure waits

MONTREAL (Reuters) – New global guidelines featuring physical distancing to restart aviation safely during the coronavirus pandemic could add up to two hours of pre-departure time for passengers at some airports during peak hours, the head of an international airports’ group said on Tuesday.

Passengers wearing face masks stand in queue at the Istanbul Airport during the first day of resumed domestic flights which are halted since March 26 amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Istanbul, Turkey June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

“A large airport with low volume, they should not need much more time for the passenger to come to the airport to keep the physical distancing,” Angela Gittens, director general of Airports Council International (ACI), told reporters.

“At a smaller airport or an airport that has peaking, I would say that it is going to be another hour or even two hours.”

A United Nations aviation agency-led task force has published guidance for airlines, airports and countries to achieve a uniform approach to flying safely during the coronavirus pandemic, although it stopped short of providing specific requirements for the hard hit industry’s recovery.

The guidance, which was adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) governing council on Monday, includes having travelers wear masks, and stand at least a meter apart at airports.

The guidelines, backed by industry, address the current hodgepodge of rules put in place during the coronavirus pandemic that make flying different in almost every country.

Aviation experts have said that a common set of safety practices will be instrumental in restoring passengers’ confidence.

“The guidelines need to be in place quickly,” said Alexandre de Juniac, director of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said during a virtual press conference.

Philippe Bertoux, ICAO’s representative from France who headed the task force, said members would continue to meet and propose changes as the pandemic evolves.

“There will be a follow up,” Bertoux said.

“The current guidance is a living document that will evolve.”

Reporting By Allison Lampert; Editing by David Gregorio

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