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EU Commission Tourism and Transport Package – Main Takeaways for Airport Regions

The European Commission launched a package called “Tourism and Transport in 2020”. In principle, this package is composed of three guidelines and a recommendation to help EU countries gradually lift travel restrictions, allow businesses to reopen, and ensure that people in Europe can benefit from a safe and relaxing summer after months of confinement while respecting necessary health precautions.

Main Takeaways for ARC members:

  • In the very contentious issue of keeping the middle seat free, which airlines noted that could be detrimental to their future, the Commission says that they recommend against keeping the seat free, as airplanes are not a medium of COVID transmission

  • The Commission also advises against putting the responsibility of testing passengers on airports and airlines, rather stating that “airports and airlines are not qualified to provide health services, such as taking health screening decisions on passengers, which should be implemented by the competent authorities.”

  • The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will put forward in the coming weeks technical operational guidelines to facilitate a coordinated approach and assist national aviation authorities, airlines, airports, and other aviation stakeholders.

Some main points from the package are below:

  • The Commission is urging for a gradual approach to be able to protect public health

  • All guidelines proposed are based on:

– Clear epidemiological evidence decline or stabilisation COVID cases

– Sufficient health capacity and guaranteed access to healthcare to any EU citizens

– Contact tracing is highly recommended

– Development of comprehensive preparedness plans at national levels

  • The Commission proposes a two-phase approach:

– Phase 1: gradual lifting of restrictions is the situation is evolving positively, including national relaxation of travel

– Phase 2: Internal border general lifting of restrictions

  • The Commission has no timeline for the reopening, they mention that they cannot set something in advance, it will be highly dependent on the statistical evidence of the evolution of the situation.

  • There will be a progressive restoration of transport and mobility

– The Guidelines set some general conditions, with EU agencies that will most likely issue more in-depth measures (EASA)

– Guidelines have no start date, they describe only how the restart will happen

  • At the same time, the Commission has issued a communication on how companies can make vouchers more attractive. The issue here is of course that many travel companies (airlines are the main targets here) will not have the cash to issue refunds, hence the Commission wants to promote the usage of vouchers in lieu of reimbursements. However, Commissioner Valean has not indicated that the Commission will suspend the EU Passenger Law.

  • All these are, as named, guidelines, which means that Member States can do whatever they want, but the Commission is urging that countries cooperate and use these guideless in a concentrated manner.

Some more in-depth issues from the communication that could be of interest to you:

  • Urban mobility is already being re-thought in several Member States, regions and cities, such as extending pavements and bicycle paths, adapting timetables and developing innovative technologies to manage passenger flows and avoid crowding. The Commission encourages and supports the development and implementation of new urban mobility solutions and measures to facilitate active, collective and shared mobility in a safe manner, and to ensure trust among citizens.

  • Where necessary, clear rules on the rights and duties of transport operators and service providers should apply, e.g. if operators are responsible for ensuring distancing or refusing access to a transport hub or vehicle without a mask or if certain maximum numbers of passengers are exceeded, the legal framework granting them authority to put in place these measures should be clearly defined.

  • Transport hubs, service providers and operators should apply business continuity principles to ensure continuous safe operations in consultation with social partners. This also means that transport workers should be adequately consulted, equipped, trained and instructed on how to carry out their duties while minimising risks to their own health, that of their families, and also the health of their co-workers and passengers

Below is the entire guideline/communication on aviation:

44. Aviation has longstanding experience in the field of risk management in safety and security, and is used to operating in a highly controlled environment. Regaining the confidence of passengers that aviation is a safe travel mode will be instrumental for exiting this crisis. To this effect, it will be essential that aviation and health stakeholders communicate widely on the measures in place, as well as on how these measures mitigate the risks. The aviation sector should make sure that measures are highly visible, coordinated, and communicated to passengers at all times.

45. Mitigating the risk of spread of COVID-19 should follow the same principles used for safety and security risk management, including monitoring compliance, reviewing the effectiveness of measures at regular intervals, and adapting measures to changing needs and improved methods and technologies – taking into account, however, that airports and airlines are not qualified to provide health services, such as taking health screening decisions on passengers, which should be implemented by the competent authorities.

a. Strengthening ventilation, hospital-grade air filtering and vertical that travel becomes either overly cumbersome or even impossible, it is crucial to ensure that equivalent measures, that are based on shared principles and that each mitigate in an adequate way the relevant health risks, are mutually accepted at the point of departure and of arrival. To facilitate this, it is useful to develop concrete criteria that should be translated in an internationally recognised approach. Using equivalent standards and applying reciprocity as regards measures and their acceptance can be fundamental enablers of aviation in the EU and in the global context. Therefore, close cooperation with non-EU countries and international partners, including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), will be essential.

47. In collaboration with the Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and competent authorities, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will put forward in the coming weeks technical operational guidelines to facilitate a coordinated approach and assist national aviation authorities, airlines, airports and other aviation stakeholders. These technical operational guidelines will take into account the safety management principles developed to ensure the safety of the European aviation system and will set out a baseline aviation health safety protocol, proposed for application across the EU.

48. The protocol should include the following measures:

a. Strengthening ventilation, hospital grade air filtering and vertical airflow.

b. Limiting contamination risks along the travel process (e.g. avoiding concentration of passengers, limiting interaction on board, exploring the most appropriate allocation of seats based on technical constraints, and prioritising electronic documents and means of payment).

c. Reducing movement in the cabin (e.g. less cabin baggage, fewer interactions with the crew).

d. Adequately managing passenger flows (e.g. advise on early arrival time at the airport; prioritising electronic/self-check-in; ensuring distancing and 11 minimising contacts at baggage drop-offs, security, and border control points, at boarding, and during baggage collection); accessible information on airport processes should be provided to passengers in advance of travel.

49. The forthcoming EASA/ECDC technical operational guidelines will specify additional mitigation measures, in close coordination with national competent authorities, with the aim of deploying measure for the operation of flights coherently across the EU.

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