With air travel accused of being a major driver in the spread of COVID-19 and governments introducing quarantines and lockdowns that have curbed the demand for flights, is it any wonder that air travel is seen by many as being the root of the problems caused by coronavirus? But, as Gloria Guevara Manzo, CEO of the World Tourism & Travel Council (WTTC), pointed out on Wednesday 23 September during the World Aviation Festival, travel and aviation in particular “is actually part of the solution”.

Guevara Manzo was joined by several airport CEOs on a keynote panel this week to discuss how airports need to rethink their future. With the global travel industry at risk of losing 197 million jobs, Guevara Manzo underlined that with air travel essential to rebuilding the global economy we need to find a solution to coexist with the virus. It is after all a risk no matter where you are.

The panel discussion was dominated by the call to push international COVID testing protocols to the top of the agenda for governments and authorities across the globe so that we can move forward and get the world flying again.

Paul Griffiths, CEO Dubai Airports, said that ideally testing for passengers needs to start before the journey begins and then again at the airport. “We will only get traveller confidence back if people know that all those in their journey have also been tested and aren’t contagious with the virus,” he said.

Heathrow Airport’s CEO, John Holland-Kaye added, “All of us are aligned on the idea that pre-journey testing is by far the best way for us to get as close back to normal travel as we can. And the fact we all agree on that is important. Let’s get alignment from all airports, airlines and others in the sector to promote pre-journey testing bilaterally and collectively with businesses to our government.” Only then, he argued, will we stand a chance of universal testing protocols being introduced.

Meanwhile, Dick Benschop, CEO of Royal Schiphol Group, pointed out that airports themselves offer ideal bases to trial the different COVID testing technologies and methods and how best to implement them. Not only do they provide an ideal environment for testing in high volumes but it’s also about ensuring that the disruption caused by testing on the flow of people or passengers is kept to a minimum.

Looking forward, Griffiths concluded that digital passports will be key to future travel and controlling the transmission of future disease outbreaks. “Producing a biometric passport with the passenger’s medical details digitised makes total sense if it can be passed from country to country securely,” he said.

But in the meantime and no matter what size the airport, it’s all about pushing for testing, testing, testing…

I hope you enjoy this week’s newsletter and enjoy your weekend.

Chloë Greenbank,

Editor, Regional Gateway.

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