Whilst not sitting down to watch Boris Johnson’s announcement yesterday, it is encouraging to read reports that the country is moving ahead with the second phase of the roadmap to bring us out of lockdown from Monday 12th April 2021. Whilst the Prime Minister is at the pub, there will be many in the aviation sector wishing that the roadmap brought a return to flying closer. It does not. I did happen to walk past the TV as the word ‘aviation’ was mentioned, which made me pause. Boris wants to get us flying again. There is also continued support for the aviation sector, apparently.
For months, the IPA has been calling for specific, targeted support to help our sector. This does not solely mean financial support, but a clear roadmap for the aviation sector, something for us all to work towards. No one thinks that would be easy, but the Global Travel Taskforce was established with a mandate to facilitate the return to international travel.
In November 2020, the Global Travel Taskforce published its first report, containing recommendations. It was obvious at the time that what was lacking was any timescale for these recommendations to be implemented. On looking at the gov.uk website today, the Global Travel Taskforce is due to report again on 12th April 2021. Can you guess what the official government website states will be in that report? Recommendations aimed at facilitating a return to international travel. We are all aware that international travel will not return before the 17th May 2021, but those in the industry need time to prepare for aviation’s recovery.
No one wants to risk infection rates rising. No one wants to risk a further lockdown. But the question has to be asked if the ban on international travel is becoming disproportionate to risk? Most travelers will confine their journeys to ‘safe’ destinations, and part of the battle will undoubtedly be ensuring that those countries stay safe, so that we do not have a repeat of the status of a country changing whilst people are out the country, whether that be for work or leisure.
Whilst there is continued talk about vaccine passports both at a domestic level in terms of entry to venues or to travel, we have always taken the view that such a policy should not become mandatory until such time as every eligible adult in the UK has had the opportunity to be vaccinated. This is still some way off.
In one respect, the safe return to air travel is quite simple in that it requires everyone to follow the rules. Take the tests, wear a mask on the flight to protect yourself, fellow travelers and those operating the flight. Wash your hands frequently, and social distance where possible. Whilst not an option on a full, or almost full aeroplane, following other measures as above will help keep everyone safe.
It is also reassuring that operators are now becoming more flexible in relation to travel arrangements, so that it should be easy to amend your booking, whether that be dates, destination, or both, for covid related reasons. There are some people still struggling to recover payments for holidays booked pre covid and cancelled because of covid. This should not be the case and may deter some from making future bookings.
One positive to take from yesterday’s announcement is that we are on target to ease restrictions as planned. That will, at some point, lead to pilots returning to the cockpit and the public being able to travel once again. Fingers crossed that that point will come sooner rather than later. Until then, we are here to support any member who has an issue in their employment. We can be contacted on 01444 441149 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Claire Pickford