Aviation and health groups' recommendations on ways to combat Covid-19 when travelling show international air travel will be much different as more scheduled passenger services resume.
In this region the timing of a transtasman travel bubble is up to political leaders but the officials group that produced a blueprint cites work done by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Recommendations by the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group are now before governments on both sides of the Tasman and, while details of how quarantine-free travel could operate have not be released, the group says they align with ''Takeoff'' guidelines released this week by ICAO.
Takeoff proposes a phased approach to restarting aviation and identifies a set of generally applicable risk-based measures which a big supporter of them, the International Air Transport Association, says will mitigate the risk of transmission of Covid-19.
What are the guidelines?
• Physical distancing to the extent feasible and implementation of "adequate risk-based measures where distancing is not feasible, for example in aircraft cabins." Air New Zealand has not required distancing on its international flights but has on domestic flights which has limited the number of passengers it can carry. From alert level 1 that will not be required.
• Wearing of face coverings and masks by passengers and aviation workers. On domestic flights that's optional for Air NZ passengers at present but others, such as Air Chathams, require them. The NZ Air Line Pilots Association also backs using masks for passengers and crew to allow the quicker resumption of more flights. The Ministry of Health in New Zealand is reviewing its stance on masks.
• Routine sanitation and disinfection of all areas with potential for human contact and transmission. All airlines have been stepping this up markedly since the outbreak began.
• Health screening, which could include pre- and post-flight self-declarations, as well as temperature screening and visual observation which ICAO says could be conducted by health professionals.
• Contact tracing for passengers and aviation employees: updated contact information should be requested as part of the health self-declaration, and interaction between passengers and governments should be made directly through government agencies.
•Passenger health declaration forms, including self-declarations in line with the recommendations of relevant health authorities. Electronic tools should be encouraged to avoid paper.
•Testing: if and when real-time, rapid and reliable testing becomes available.
At the airport
The ICAO guidelines include:
Airports should provide signage, floor markings and announcements to encourage physical distancing. Various self-service tools, such as boarding pass and baggage tag kiosks and baggage drop and kiosks need to be constantly disinfected. Self-sanitising technology may also be considered for integration within kiosks touch screens, to allow for the disinfection of the screen between each use. Online check-in, mobile boarding pass, off-airport baggage tagging, and other initiatives are needed and may require new government regulations.
If health screening is required prior to the checkpoint, non-contact thermometers should be used in a designated area. Appropriate procedures should be implemented in co-ordination with relevant government departments in order to respond to any passengers who show signs of illness. Provide hand sanitisers and disinfection products prior to passengers and staff screening access points where possible.
Security checkpoint access and layouts could be rearranged to reduce queues and crowding. The guidelines also state the need for sanitisers means larger quantities of liquids could be considered by authorities.
Airside terminal areas and boarding
Especially during the early stages of the restart phase, carry-on baggage that would require overhead bins should be limited to facilitate a smooth boarding process.
Where possible, implementation of self-boarding technologies at the gate should be considered with units using automatic doors, integrated boarding pass readers, LCD displays for passenger instructions and a device for printing seat assignment changes.
All efforts need to be made to provide a speedy baggage claim process and ensure that passengers are not made to wait for excessive amounts of time in the baggage claim area.
Maximise use of available arrival baggage carousels to limit the gathering of passengers.
Governments should ensure that the customs clearance process is as speedy as possible and that appropriate measures are taken in case of physical baggage inspections.
Align cleaning schedule based on flight schedules to ensure a more frequent, in-depth disinfection of luggage carts, washrooms, elevator buttons, rails, etc.
Allow for self-service kiosk or online options for passenger needing to report lost or damaged luggage.
Use floor markings to encourage physical distancing at the baggage carousel as a temporary measure. These measures are already in place in New Zealand airports.
In the air
Among the ICAO recommendations, several of which have already been adopted by airlines running scheduled services:
•Adjust the boarding process; To the extent possible consistent with weight and balance requirements, board and disembark passengers in ways that reduce the likelihood of passengers passing in close proximity to each other.
• Limit interaction on board: Encourage passengers to travel as lightly as possible with check-in of all luggage except small hand luggage that fits under the seat. Remove newspapers and magazines. The size and quantity of duty-free sales may also be temporarily limited.
•Encourage passengers to stay in the assigned seat as much as possible.
•Limit or suspend Food and Beverage Service: Limit or discontinue food and beverage service on short-haul flights or require dispensing in sealed, pre-packaged containers.
•Restrict lavatory access. When possible, one lavatory should be designated for crew use only, provided sufficient lavatories remain available for passenger use without fostering congregation by passengers waiting to use a lavatory. Also, to the extent practicable depending on the aircraft, require passengers to use a designated lavatory based on seat assignment to limit passenger movement in flight, which reduces exposure to other passengers.
•Crew protection measures. Prohibit sharing of safety equipment used for safety demonstrations. Instruct crew members to provide service only to specific sections of the cabin. Explore additional means of protection, for instance plastic curtains or Plexiglas panels during the boarding process (to be removed once boarding is completed.)