BRUSSELS – Leading figures from the commercial aviation industry called on Tuesday for a harmonized approach across the European Union to regain the trust of travelers by introducing COVID-19 tests at airports for arriving passengers instead of imposing mandatory preventive quarantine measures.
A statement by Airlines for Europe (A4E) urged EU leaders to “swiftly adopt” a common approach towards travel restrictions related to COVID-19 to better support the badly flagging aviation sector and “boost Europe’s wider economic recovery.”
“Improved COVID-19 testing and contact tracing should be used instead of quarantines, as testing enables targeted risk mitigation on an individual level.”
“Member States should continue to invest in making quick and reliable COVID-19 tests available to passengers shortly before departure,” the organization said.
The rapidly developing nature of the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on Europe’s peak summer travel season, with millions of holidaymakers being forced to cancel or change plans as governments imposed quarantines on travelers returning from certain hotspots and other border restrictions.
After a brief resurgence in July after nationwide lockdowns were lifted at the start of the summer, the number of passengers plummeted during August and in early September as case numbers spiked across the continent.
“Europeans have not been able to properly enjoy a well-deserved summer break due to chaotic border restrictions along with confusion about quarantines, varying passenger locator forms and test requirements,” said Thomas Reynaert, A4E’s managing director.
“A unified European testing program is urgently needed if we are to have any chance of restoring passenger confidence.”
The organization said that, in August, airlines only saw 30 percent of travelers compared to last year, and called on the European Council to make the issues a “political priority.”
“Uncoordinated national measures over the last six months have had a devastating impact on freedom of movement – a core EU principal – with significant knock-on effects for our travel and tourism sector,” said Benjamin Smith, CEO Air France-KLM Group.
The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (known as Eurocontrol) said on Monday that it estimates that air traffic in the EU as a whole will fall by more than 55 percent this year compared to 2019.
Major airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, Alitalia, Tap and Finnair have received state bailouts worth tens of billions of euros to try to stay afloat.
“Aviation does not produce any new cases,” said the executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, Patrick Ky.