COVID-19: The Challenges of Safe Air Travel in the Pandemic

Easyjet and Ryanair will soon be resuming a limited number domestic flights, with Easyjet also running a single flight to Nice, France.

This limited reopening gives airports in the UK an opportunity to introduce and refine policies to ensure the safe travel for passengers and safe work for staff during the pandemic. Such measures must be robust and well-implemented before international travel resumes.

Airports have already introduced enhanced cleaning procedures, additional hand sanitiser units, floor markings to control foot traffic and widespread signage displaying public health information. All staff will be wearing face masks.

In addition to these measures, Gatwick have requested that all passengers wear face coverings in the airport and throughout the flight and it is expected for other airports to do the same. Whether masks will be provided for passengers who do not bring one is currently unknown.

As airports and flights have the potential to be very high risk sites for transmission of COVID-19, it is paramount that airports and airlines take social distancing and hygiene measures very seriously.

Below are Magenta Security’s recommendations for the safe operation of airports and airlines during the pandemic.

Food and drink will not be served on flights, but what about in airports?

Initially, food or drink will not be served on flights to limit the unnecessary transfer of potentially virus-carrying objects. Within the airports, however, we currently do not know if food outlets, restaurants, pubs and or bars will be reopening, whether partially or fully.

We would recommend that any such businesses limit their offering to takeaway only, a method that has allowed many restaurants to continue to operate safely during the lockdown.

If seating is provided, it must be appropriately spaced to maintain social distancing and staff must clean all surfaces in between uses.

Will airport shops be reopening as well?

Following the nationwide lockdown, all business premises in airports were closed, with the exception of pharmacies. With a phased reopening of non-essential businesses starting on June 1st followed by a full re-opening on June 15th, will duty-free shops and fashion retailers at airports also be reopening?

If they do, they must follow the same HSE guidance that other retailers are currently implementing and have already been in place in supermarkets and other essential businesses.

It is especially important for airport businesses to do so due to the inevitability of passengers from high risk areas mixing with passengers from low risk areas, making the consequences of transmission more severe than businesses where only locals are mixing together.

For non-essential businesses in airports considering reopening, we have written an article on the latest advice for retailers to operate safely during the pandemic, which can be found here.

We can work safely if we work together

At Magenta Security, we hope that airlines, airports and the businesses that operate within them will follow in the footsteps of essential businesses that stayed open during the lockdown to implement protections for staff and customers alike.

As always, we are happy to share our advice with anyone concerned and can offer our dedicated COVID-19 safety assessment service for businesses who want guaranteed compliance with the latest guidelines.

To learn more about current recommendations for safe travel and work during the pandemic, click here for HSE guidance and here for WHO.

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