Take-off Team Joins Forces: A Proposition for a Coordinated Lifting of Travel Restrictions in the Aviation Sector
The past long weeks of rigid travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 virus have severely affected the entire aviation and travel industry. A ‘take-off team’ consisting of several aviation experts and associations, including, for example, ADV, BDF, BDL, and BARIG, has jointly developed a coordinated position on how current travel restrictions should be handled in order to resume travel. The following is a courtesy translation of the ‘One-Pager’ arguing for the ‘Removal of Travel Restrictions in the Aviation Sector’.
Removal of Travel Restrictions in the Aviation Sector
1. Current Travel Restrictions
At present, state law, based on the model federal regulation, requires a 14-day home quarantine following any trip abroad, with limited, abstract exemptions for functional staff and short stays in foreign countries. In addition to that, the public health department is entitled to exempt individual persons from quarantine. In the absence of more comprehensive information, the order for home quarantine as well as the general global travel warning issued by the Federal Foreign Office are based on the blanket assumption that every single returnee without exception is potentially infected.
The imposition of a home quarantine for travelers from abroad effectively brings international traffic to a standstill; as to the aviation sector, the result is an almost complete shutdown of all air traffic. The quarantine order is a type of maximum measure which ought to be implemented solely ultima ratio, in accordance with the principle of proportionality. In this respect, it is a measure that should only be applied in the case of travel from highly affected areas in an acute phase of the pandemic, and then only if there are no alternative preventative measures.
3. Alternatives to Home Quarantine for Incoming Air Passengers
Air transport offers particularly reliable options for tracking passengers and, hence, interrupting possible chains of infection on account of the passenger data collected by the airlines and available when required (air passenger is available for contact). Furthermore, measures have been defined for the flight itself to ensure reliable air traffic in terms of health - from the moment of booking to the time spent at the airport, for the duration of the flight itself, and until the destination airport is reached. These measures have been compiled and coordinated with the Federal Ministry of Transport.
If, moreover, valid information is provided that no substantial risk of infection exists with respect to the air passenger, the premise of the quarantine order does not apply (also with regard to proportionality). In this sense, the following is proposed:
- Lifting of travel restrictions between countries with effective infection control: Alongside Germany, many other countries are successfully working on gaining control of the infection situation via numerous measures of effective infection control and containment, thereby gradually resuming public life. Appropriate assessment criteria have been established by relevant institutions (e.g. WHO, ECDC). Such countries with effective infection control should, first bilaterally, mutually eliminate their travel restrictions according to risk, followed in the next step by coordinated action throughout the European Union.
- Lifting of travel restrictions to countries with lower infection control: For people arriving from countries whose infection rates have not yet been limited, quarantine measures should be lifted if infection control can be achieved by other means (e.g. tests immediately after entry, temperature screening, etc.).