As border closures in Europe continue to be announced in light of the COVID-19 crisis, severe capacity constraints are being seen within the aviation industry, says the Regions Airline Association (ERA).
However, legislation, directives and guidance aimed at air passenger operations and the protection of air passengers on commercial flights, does not specifically exempt cargo flights and cargo flight crews.
Whilst efforts to prevent the spread of the virus are essential, currently many European citizens are panic buying – a huge problem for societal separation as people fear the supply chain will shut down. Therefore, we must also make efforts to keep the economy moving, to reduce, if at all possible, the enormous impact that COVID-19 is having and will have in the weeks and months ahead.
At this moment in time some states require that when a cargo flight returns to a country following minimal ground time as part of the turnaround process in a high-risk area, even if the crew do not leave the aircraft, effectively never leaving the territory of the aircraft registration and never entering the country in which they landed, they will now be subject to 14 days of mandatory isolation. If this is to continue, airlines will quickly run out of flight crew to continue operations.
Cargo airlines are doing everything possible to keep supply chains open, including to countries in full or partial lockdown. The airlines though are facing significant problems with different attitudes and interpretations of directives and guidance by individual member states and National Supervisory Authorities.
Andrew Kelly, ERA president, says: “This is a public health crisis and lives, health and safety must come first. Maintaining the cargo network will support the fight against COVID-19 and will significantly dilute the huge economic impact that we are all facing. It is absolutely vital that the economic supply chain continues throughout this crisis and this means that cargo aircraft, ships and trucks must be able to operate, with special precautions to protect crews and the general public. Action is required from the European Commission, EASA and national governments to ensure exemption for cargo flights and flight crews from restrictions that have been introduced solely to protect commercial air passengers.”