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Flying post coronavirus: Compulsory masks and no airport goodbyes

Reviving the aviation industry is going to ..

Reviving the aviation industry is going to mean a very different flight experience than before the pandemic.

The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Wednesday sent out draft safety guidelines to capitals, obtained by POLITICO, aimed at allowing air travel to resume while keeping the risk of coronavirus transmission low.

They sketch out a host of changes, from keeping some seats unoccupied, to wearing masks while flying, only allowing passengers into terminals and not permitting people to line up in cabins to use the toilet.

Airlines and operators are keen to restart Europes air travel industry which has been largely grounded since March due to the coronavirus.

The European Commission issued its own broad travel recommendations on Wednesday, but called for a joint effort by EASA and ECDC to develop specific rules for air travel.

The document recommends face masks for the whole journey, and for passengers to fill out health questionnaires and location cards.

Some of the ideas are going to be very unpopular in the industry.

The guidelines say “where allowed by the passenger load, cabin configuration and mass and balance requirements, airlines should ensure, to the extent possible, physical distancing among passengers.”

Although some airlines such as Lufthansa and TAP Air Portugal have instituted such empty-row policies, most carriers are opposed, arguing it is ineffective and hurts their bottom lines. The guidance stops short of mandating a distance between passengers and adds a caveat that airlines should only do so if they can.

If social distancing isnt possible, “passengers and crew members on board an aircraft should adhere at all times to all the other preventive measures including hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and wearing a face mask,” the guidelines say.

The guidelines also recommend leaving two rows empty to serve as a makeshift “isolation area” for passengers who show COVID-19 symptoms on board.

The guidelines say temperature checks — a policy embraced by the industry — are “not effective or efficient in detecting COVID-19 introductions or in delaying or mitigating a pandemic,” adding that its a “high-cost low-efficiency measure.”

They also dismiss the idea of so-called immunity passports showing that passengers are free of COVID-19 before being able to board. The measure “is not supported by the currently existing scientific knowledge,” the guidelines say, but add that both regulators “are monitoring the scientific developments and will update the recommendation as appropriate when a suitable test becomes available.”

The document recommends face masks for the whole journey, and for passengers to fill out health questionnaires and location cards, allowing governments to track down people who might have come into contact with the infection.

There would also be changes aboard airplanes.

“Airlines should put measures into place to avoid passengers queuing in the aisle or the galleys for the use of the lavatories,” the draft says, a policy




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