Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the International Civil Aviation Organization: “The COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the importance of solidarity and global alignment in Aviation”
Edited by Jeff Peet
1.- What role has the industry played in the development of harmonization measures, that is, actions common to all its actors to face this pandemic in a coordinated manner?
Industry participation has been wide and highly appreciated. Airline and airport operators are more directly involved in the passenger experience and, as historical aviation safety performance reveals, protecting passengers from any and all risks to their health and safety is the first and higher commitment of air transport.
From a general point of view, everyone should appreciate that CART’s work has developed on the basis of extensive consultation with countries and regional organizations, and with key advice from the World Health Organization (WHO).
We are grateful for the advice of key aviation industry groups, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International (ACI World), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) and the International Council for the Coordination of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA).
2.- You have said that you are against quarantine measures, but if such measures are considered necessary due to the reactivation of Covid-19, what will your position be?
ICAO itself never declared that it was against quarantines. In all of these matters, we rely directly and confidently on the advice of our WHO colleagues on whether quarantines or other medical health measures should be considered.
Another very compelling point here is that quarantines have never been proposed exclusively for air travelers, but instead are considered or established as a more general border control measure in relation to all foreign visitors.
3.- Could the Covid-19 threat be used as a weapon to impose travel restrictions on a political basis?
That is highly unlikely. To begin with, countries only connected the world through ICAO because they recognized that it was in their deep mutual interest to do so. And we’ve only witnessed a few politically motivated airspace restrictions over the years, in particular because connectivity is a win-win formula that increases the prosperity and sustainability of states wherever planes fly.
States that consider taking advantage of the impacts of COVID-19 towards the closing of their skies would skyrocket in the socioeconomic footing and we currently do not see or expect to see that type of dynamic begin to develop.
4.- What is the CART guide and why did the ICAO Council States take this work as a matter of global priority?
The CART Report, including its main recommendations and ‘take-off’ guidelines, is a tool that we have developed as a sector and that aims to restart the international air transport system and align its global recovery.
Due to the multiplier effects of aviation on travel, trade and many other areas of economic and civil capacity, severe contractions in local and international air services can jeopardize economic livelihoods and the stability of societies and entire regions. As the severity of COVID-19 has worsened with respect to air travel, both States and industry have approached ICAO to raise concerns on these points.
They sought our support in closing some emerging gaps to help unify and align the many health and safety recovery and response approaches they were implementing around the world, and ICAO responded to this call with the delivery and adoption of this report.
CART’s take-off guidelines and recommendations are designed to allow Member States and industry to implement harmonized risk mitigation measures in full compliance with the latest and most prudent travel health and medical advice available to us.
5.- If ICAO had established this guide in January, instead of June, could they have prevented the spread of COVID-19 around the world?
ICAO and the air transport sector began to help curb the spread of COVID-19 as soon as it was classified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (ESPII), on January 30.
The CART guidelines are not designed to slow the global spread of an infectious disease, but rather are a response to this specific pandemic and its specific impacts, as they are experienced and managed at the local state level.
Its primary goal is to harmonize these local responses as far as state and local state pandemic resources allow, and to reduce short-term transmission and initiate a prudent and much-needed push toward global restart and recovery of operations. aerial.
6.- So the States still have the last word in what they want to implement or not the provisions of CART?
Built-in flexibility was critical to this process. No country is experiencing the exact same impacts from COVID-19 as its neighbor, and each has local resources and other considerations to assess in the course of designing effective local response and recovery measures.
Recognizing these differentiating circumstances, the CART guidelines provide States with a global set of benchmarks as they develop, refine, and ultimately reduce the extraordinary health and safety response measures being taken around the world. .
7.- Do you think governments around the world have the political will to proceed with a coordinated implementation?
Of course. Their voices were clear and forceful regarding the calls they made to ICAO to help drive the global recovery from this pandemic through the CART process, and we have seen nothing but the highest levels of national commitment and support to date. as countries have begun to align their responses and reconnect the world slowly and safely.
8.- Does ICAO foresee any opposition to CART’s proposals, either from countries or airlines?
The CART results have been developed through a balanced representation of countries and regions and, as just mentioned, with the full representation and participation of all aviation stakeholders.
We made sure that this process was founded on the same historical solidarity that enabled aviation to connect the world in the first place, and now we will depend more than ever on that solidarity to reconnect it.
9.- Do you think that the “airlift” and “tourist bubbles” agreements that are concluded bilaterally will pose a threat to the coordinated implementation of the CART report?
No local or bilateral action being taken poses a threat to coordinated implementation as long as CART is referenced in their design and adjustment as the response to the pandemic continues. Countries and operators need autonomy and certainty as they take action to get the world flying again, and the CART guidelines are designed to serve as a common benchmark in both capabilities, while remaining adaptable.
We hope that the guidelines will facilitate convergence, mutual recognition and harmonization of aviation COVID-19-related measures, and to be effective we must adopt a layered and especially risk-based approach. Measures will be implemented or removed as necessary based on the wide range of medical and other factors that will be at play.
10.- What has been the reception of CART in Latin America specifically?
National public health and economic outcomes are both highly dependent on governments aligning their CART-driven responses to COVID-19.
As the States gradually restart their operations, the importance of that alignment is even more perceptible and its effectiveness relies strongly on regional coordination achieved at the DGCA level. It has not gone unnoticed that the Latin American response to the CART, and the alignment of its health protocols, has so far been among the best in the world.
I wish to recognize the important role being played by ICAO’s Regional Offices in Lima and Mexico City for helping to achieve this alignment.
11.- What is your impression of the handling of the pandemic in Latin America with respect to civil aviation and do you see any space for improvement?
It’s not my place to comment on overall public health responses in these countries, as those are more closely monitored by the WHO. However in terms of the civil aviation aspects greater international support is still required to sensitize decision-makers, and to integrate the CART’s ‘Take-off’ measures with the local economic reactivation procedures being explored by Latin American States.
Coordinated efforts in the Latin American region between health and civil aviation authorities are in place to promote understanding of mutual challenges and support further collaboration among all stakeholders.
Phase II of the CART Guidelines, which Council currently expects to adopt at end-October, will contain new recommendations on how countries can evaluate testing procedures as a replacement for traveler quarantine approaches, and this will be an important new area for cooperation.
12.- Do you have any other advice for countries as they restart their flights?
Except that the safety, security and sustainability of the international aviation network largely depends on the detailed standardization of our sector through the global cooperation achieved at ICAO.
The COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the importance of solidarity and aligning ourselves globally in our industry today more than ever, and CART’s guidelines are specifically designed to maintain or restore that alignment in the face of everything we now face.