Restart and Recovery: A pragmatic and proportionate plan to resume flights


COVID-19 has led to the mass grounding of international flights – in April 70% of passenger fleets were grounded. The impact on airlines, and therefore the civil aerospace sector, has been huge. Aircraft deliveries were down 78% in April 2020, compared to the same month last year.

Major manufacturers have significantly cut production rates for the remainder of 2020, by over a third in some cases. Initial ADS estimates suggest the UK will lose up to £5bn in value in 2020 compared to the aircraft deliveries value in 2019.

Resuming flying

The resumption of flights is the one of five key areas we have highlighted to the UK Government in our restart and recovery work. ADS has been involved in constructive discussions with the Government, alongside airlines and airports, on measures that need to be put in place to allow flights to resume.

The Government announcement of a 14-day quarantine for international arrivals is concerning as it will hold back the UK’s economic recovery. It is however encouraging that key workers in our sectors are included in the list of people exempt from quarantining. We continue to explore and engage the Government on a range of measures that could be put in place to minimise the risk of infection for travellers and therefore eliminate the need for the 14-day quarantine.

This approach must be underpinned by international collaboration. ADS supports the proposal of air bridges or travel corridors being set up on a bilateral basis. This could open key trading routes, stimulate the tourism industry and provide a vital boost for the aviation and aerospace sectors.

Health measures

The industry is working with Government to identify and implement the health measures required to reduce the risk of infection and build confidence. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has already published guidelines for the European aviation sector to follow. The UK Government needs to work quickly to finalise its own guidance and implement the measures that need to be put in place. Examples of practical measures that could be put in place are:

  • Self-health certification and temperature scanning
  • Travellers being required to wear face masks and other forms of PPE
  • Increasing the frequency of hygiene, cleaning and sanitisation measures in airports and aircraft
  • The NHS application for testing and contact tracing must be compatible with apps used in other countries
  • Rapid coronavirus tests on passengers before they board a flight or enter an airport terminal, providing testing capacity allows

It is important that measures put in place for domestic flights do not differ from measures put in place for the wider UK public transport system. In addition, working through international organisations such as IATA will be critical in developing a global set of standards at airports and in aircraft to reduce the health risk.

Air Bridges

Air bridges are the key to re-opening international routes. The UK Government should be working with key international partners to open routes without the need for any quarantine period. This could start with the UK looking at its top travel destinations and implementing health measures that remove the need for a quarantine period.

Major economies are considering the air bridge concept. The UK can still take a global lead in developing the required health measures to facilitate air bridges. Opening key routes will provide a vital boost to the economies of the countries on both sides.

ADS is pushing the Government to prioritise this piece of work. As the scientific and medical communities continue to develop their understanding of the virus, the UK Government should work quickly to evaluate and adjust the control measures in place.

Multiple measures required

A global restart of flying is only possible if all these measures and policies are considered and implemented. ADS will continue to engage constructively with the Government across these different areas. We continue to welcome thoughts, questions and suggestions from members on the impacts of the crisis, and solutions to facilitate recovery.

To read about our five priorities for Restart & Recovery, click here.