​UK government issues flight-resumption guidance

UK government officials have published new guidelines aimed at enabling the country’s air transport sector to “bounce back” safely when Covid-19 travel restrictions are eased.

UK government officials have published new guidelines aimed at enabling the country’s air transport sector to “bounce back” safely when Covid-19 travel restrictions are eased.

While advice from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office remains to “avoid all non-essential travel”, transport secretary Grant Shapps says the latest information issued to operators on 11 June will “ensure a framework is in place for the aviation industry to bounce back when it is safe for restrictions on travel to be lifted”.

The guidelines state that passengers and aviation workers should keep 2 meters (6 foot) apart from people outside their households, but where social distancing is not possible “operators should implement appropriate risk controls”. These measures include requiring travellers to wear a face covering in the airport and on board the aircraft, as well as encouraging frequent hand washing.

The UK government also suggests that all baggage is checked in, including hand luggage, and that passengers remain seated “as much as possible” once on board the aircraft.

Airlines should “inform passengers in advance” of the measures they are taking to minimise coronavirus transmission on flights, and should “consider sharing information on seat layouts and planned load factors so passengers can make informed decisions on booking and before check-in”, says the Department for Transport.

The guidelines largely mirror the flight-resumption protocol published by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in late May.

The government statement includes a comment from Manchester Airports Group chief strategy officer Tim Hawkins which hints at the possibility of the UK opening air bridges with certain countries.

“With similar protocols being adopted in other countries, and a targeted approach to reopening travel to low-risk countries, we will have the elements in place to get our economy moving again and protect jobs throughout the whole aviation supply chain,” says Hawkins.

“This new guidance provides the basis for the restart and recovery of the UK aviation industry – it offers clear information for us, our passengers and our airlines on the steps needed to create a safe travel experience,” he continues.

From 8 June, passengers arriving in the UK have been required to go into quarantine for 14 days – a move that has drawn fierce criticism from the aviation industry. A number of media reports have suggested that the UK government is considering the possibility of establishing air bridges with certain countries, under which quarantine restrictions could be bypassed. However, no such plan has been confirmed.