Where do the regulators stand?

Where do the regulators stand?

Regrettably COVID-19 has become the most talked about subject in our lives and the industry. My topic today is about the actions being taken by the main regulator in the aviation industry – ICAO. TIACA and ICAO have a long-standing practice of collaboration and coordination based on the Declaration signed in 2013. We are joining their Technical group working on joint actions related to COVID-19 (VTC). The group already consists of ICAO, WHO, IATA and ACI. It’s working alongside with the executive-level group (ICAO Secretary General, WHO Assistant Director General, Emergency Preparedness and International Health, ACI Director General and IATA Director General & CEO) have been held on 17 February 2020 and on 24 February 2020.

There are several objectives of these two Groups which are of interest to the air cargo industry from two points of view: to make input and to follow and disseminate information to the air cargo industry. The main ones:

  • drafting guidance material on managing outbreaks that occur in aircraft and airport
  • website for a single source aviation-specific guidelines on COVID-19
  • preliminary analysis of the economic impact of COVID-19.

Generally speaking in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, ICAO has been actively providing aviation-related information on COVID-19 and serving as the key facilitator for States and organizations that are members of the ICAO Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) programme.

So far, the Organization has issued two Electronic Bulletins and one State letter.

a) Electronic Bulletin EB 2020/06 (24 January 2020) entitled “Novel Corona Virus Epidemic in China

b) Electronic Bulletin EB 2020/9 (30 January 2020) entitled “Ongoing developments regarding the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

c) State letter AN 5/28-20/15 (13 February 2020) entitled “State Support to Prevent the Spread of Novel Coronavirus Disease

I want to point out that ICAO urged the States to strengthen their preparedness plans for managing risks relating to communicable disease outbreaks by implementing effective collaboration and coordination strategies with all stakeholders.

TIACA this week started working closely with ICAO, the WHO, the Airport Council International (ACI) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) at both technical and executive levels. This collaboration ensures synergies and coordinated, consistent efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak. One of the key tasks is to provide guidance to aviation authorities, airlines, and airports on appropriate measures aimed to protect the health and reduce the risk of transmission.

There is another important topic dealt with in this set up – Economic impact of COVID-19 on air transport. Lessons learned from the diverse crises of the past decades have highlighted the vulnerability of air traffic to disease outbreaks. The latest estimates by the ICAO Secretariat indicate the following impact of the COVID-19 outbreak for the first quarter of 2020 in terms of scheduled international passenger traffic from/to China (including Hong Kong SAR of China, Macao SAR of China and cross-strait services from/to Taiwan, Province of China) during 1Q 2020 compared to originally-planned:

a) overall reduction ranging from 35% to 38% of seats offered by airlines;

b) overall reduction of 20.4 to 25.8 million passenger; and

c) approximately USD 4.9 to 6.3 billion potential loss of gross operating revenues of airlines.

These estimates do not include potential impacts due to reductions in international air freight movements on cargo-only aircraft, airports, air navigation service providers and to domestic air traffic because of the lack of reliable data. However, TIACA will be trying to obtain this to the extent possible.

A few thoughts in connection with the cancellation of the flights to the USA from most of the European countries. Of course, the Sovereign States have the right to take such decisions. The fact that the cargo movement from Europe to USA is exempt from this ban is the confirmation that air cargo is a great contributor to the global economy and international trade. It also confirms the highest importance of the air cargo movement to prevent and battle the disastrous effect of the coronavirus. The medical supplies, prevention commodities like masks and disinfection substances, tents, food, spare parts and equipment – all this is transported by air. We also should not forget that most of manufacturing and other enterprises continue working and need deliveries. Air cargo carriers and their partners are here to do the job. The industry needs not only the appreciation of this effort but also full understanding of the conditions under which the air cargo industry functions. The leasing payments for expensive aircraft are to continue being paid, salaries, electricity, payments to their own providers of services and materials – all this requires monetary resources which are not always replenished in the situation with the reduced and irregular operations. Attention from the State and local authorities is to be drawn to the fundamental role the air cargo industry is playing and every effort is to be made to maintain its subsistence and vitality.

TIACA has been working with its partners and will continue working with the top aviation regulator – ICAO in developing recommendations for the States’ Administrations and all the international civil aviation.

Vladimir Zubkov