The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have issued a joint document defining measures to assure the health safety of air travellers and aviation personnel once airlines resume regular flight schedules following the severe disruption caused by COVID-19.

The guidelines place paramount importance on health safety at every stage of the end-to-end passenger journey.

One of the many recommendations of the COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol is that health safety promotion material should be made available in the flight cabin according to the aeroplane operators’ practices, preferably through video and audio promotional material, or, only when non-physical means are not possible, as leaflets in the pocket seats. This should include information explaining all the risk mitigation measures put in place, such as the wearing of face masks, hygiene measures, reduced service, air filtration, ventilation and exchange, to reassure passengers and increase their adherence to the implemented measures as well as regarding the proper use and removal of masks and the proper way to dispose of used masks, with single-use waste bags made available onboard for this purpose.

The Protocol also calls for passengers to be advised of the consequences of not adhering to such measures, which include refused access to the aircraft cabin, or disembarked, if the events take place before aircraft doors are shut. If the events take place in flight, the procedures relating to handling cases of unruly passengers should be applied.

Where boarding is performed using a boarding bridge, boarding by rows starting with the furthest row from the aircraft doors used in the embarkation process or, alternatively, all window seats, then middle seats, followed by aisle seats should be considered.

Where allowed by the passenger load, cabin configuration and mass and balance requirements, aeroplane operators should ensure, to the extent possible, physical distancing among passengers. Family members and individuals travelling together as part of the same household can be seated next to each other. The seat allocation process should be modified accordingly. If physical distancing cannot be guaranteed because of the passenger load, seat configuration or other operational constraints, passengers and crew members on board an aircraft should adhere at all times to all the other preventive measures including strict hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette and should wear a face mask.

Disembarkation should be performed by rows starting with the closest rows to the exits in use, in the order aisle, middle and window seats, or an alternative procedure that would ensure physical distancing to the maximum extent possible and avoid queuing.

Aeroplane operators are recommended to reduce on-board service to the minimum necessary to ensure comfort and wellbeing standards for passengers and limit the contact between crew members and passengers giving proper consideration to the duration of the flight.

This includes removing duty free or other non-essential product sales on board;  reducing food and drink service; preference for pre-packaged and sealed food and drink products, such as canned drinks; wherever possible, payment procedures involving touch or contact, such as cash payments, should be avoided to mitigate transmission between crew members and passengers, and passengers should be reminded to remain seated with their seatbelt on as much as possible.

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