IAA calls for pre-departure testing at airports to boost passenger numbers

Last week the government agreed to align Ireland with the EU's new international travel system to regulate travel restrictions across the continent. 
IAA calls for pre-departure testing at airports to boost passenger numbers

The IAA has said meaningful levels of air travel can not return until there is an effective testing system in place at airports for passengers. Picture: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has called for testing of passengers at airports in order to let international travel resume.

The group warned the aviation sector across Europe is going to lose €140bn euro this year as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on tourism and international travel continues to add up.

The IAA has said meaningful levels of air travel can not return until there is an effective testing system in place at airports for passengers.

Paul Brandon, Head of Corporate Affairs with the IAA, said the European Union (EU) as a whole needs to change its system of quarantine restrictions on international travel.

Mr Brandon said: "In terms of testing at airports, an EU-wide system that replaces quarantine measures with airport pre-departure testing is required. 

"Such a system could allow all passengers, or more appropriately passengers travelling from a red or an orange country to be tested on the day or a day in advance of travel."

The IAA has also warned that it may take until 2024 or 2025 before business conditions return to normality for the sector and passenger numbers to reach pre-pandemic levels.

The aviation group said that a recovery in air travel is not possible without such a testing system in operation in order to support the EU's traffic light system for international arrivals. 

Last week the government agreed to align Ireland with the EU's new international travel system to regulate travel restrictions across the continent. 

This plan allows for international travel without quarantine based on a weekly map published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Member states of the EU will be coded by the 14-day incident rate of Covid-19 and other epidemiological factors into three levels, Red, Orange and Green. 

Passengers arriving from a country labelled: 'Green' under the system would not be required to quarantine or take a test on arrival. Arrivals from countries designated: 'Red' or 'Orange' under the system will need to take a test a or quarantine. 

A fourth system colour, 'Grey,' means there is not enough data available for arrivals from this country and that quarantine restrictions and tests would apply for arrivals as well. 

Mr Brandon said that sustained testing would be necessary to compliment this coordinated approach to travel and that passenger compliance would be important as well.

"It is our view that the Irish government policy should favour a consistent approach to testing across Europe to compliment the traffic light system. We believe that a recovery for air travel is not possible without this policy in place. 

"So what we are really talking about is that passengers would know the requirements based on the traffic light system. 

"You would test passengers pre-flight, you would continue to apply the strict procedures on board and then the onus would continue on passengers to behave responsibly," said Mr Brandon. 

The aviation industry was one of the first and hardest hit sectors by the coronavirus pandemic along with tourism and the hospitality industry with quarantine restrictions discouraging international travel. 

The airline Ryanair has criticised the government heavily over its handling of international travel during the exit from the first lockdown. 

Earlier this month, Ryanair made significant cuts to its winter capacity for European travel and closed bases at Cork and Shannon airport. 

At the time of the announcement, Ryanair CEO Eddie Wilson said the government did nothing to support the industry.

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