Passengers to Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports are today (7 May) being advised to cover their faces and wear gloves under a new pilot scheme from operator Manchester Airports Group (MAG).
The guidance is for all departing and arrivals travellers and is the first of its kind for airports in the UK.
All MAG colleagues will wear gloves and face masks and staff of the airports’ partners will also be encouraged to follow procedure.
Aimed at reinforcing safety while instilling confidence in air travel ahead of a future climb in pax volumes, the move will involve airport staff being on hand to guide passengers through security processes.
TEMPERATURE SCREENING TRIALS
The small number of travellers currently making essential journeys are encouraged to bring their own gloves, face coverings or face masks to the airport, although initially the airports will provide these to passengers who do not have them.
MAG has already introduced social distancing practices and the new guidance will not change this, it says.
However, face coverings and gloves may in the future play an important role in ensuring airport terminal safety at busy times.
The operator says it will be carrying out some limited temperature screening trials in the coming weeks, but these will be used to test equipment rather than deciding on a passenger’s eligibility to travel.
MAG is considering asking all passengers to make a health declaration to gain access to airports and the operator says it will inform passengers of any such trials.
Charlie Cornish, Group CEO, MAG said: “It’s clear that social distancing will not work on any form of public transport. But we’re confident that when the time is right, people will be able to travel safely.
“MAG has been working with the rest of the airport industry on a new safety framework for travel. We now need to work urgently with government to agree how we operate in the future. This has to be a top priority so that people can be confident about flying, and to get tourism and travel going again.
“At MAG we’ve taken expert medical advice on how people can travel safely, and we’re pleased to be piloting these new measures at our airports for those passengers who do still need to travel. We expect to be able to agree a new framework by the end of May that will support a restart of the industry as soon as possible.”
IATA REJECTS EMPTY MIDDLE SEATS
Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released a statement in which it called for face coverings and masks to be worn by passengers and crew on flights.
This would form part of several actions designed to reduce the spread of Covid-19’s transmission, others being temperature screening of passengers, reducing contact on boarding and deplaning, limiting cabin movements, deep cleaning and simplifying onboard catering procedures.
In the future, Covid-19 testing or immunity checks through passports have been suggested in temporary biosecurity methods.
IATA says that evidence suggests the risk of infection transmission onboard is low, with mask wearing helping to reduce this further.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO said: “The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. We will take measures – such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by crew – to add extra layers of protection.
“We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit.”
However, IATA made clear that it does not support leaving middle seats empty as part of enforced social distancing measures, as some airlines have already indicated.
IATA claims such a move would tamper with the economics of aviation by slashing maximum load factors to 62% – well below the average break even industry load factor of 77%.
Seat costs would rise – between 43%-53% depending on the region just to break even, IATA warns.
De Juniac added: “Airlines are fighting for their survival. Eliminating the middle seat will raise costs. If that can be offset that with higher fares, the era of affordable travel will come to an end.
“On the other hand, if airlines can’t recoup the costs in higher fares, airlines will go bust. Neither is a good option when the world will need strong connectivity to help kick-start the recovery from Covid-19’s economic devastation.”